Southwest Airlines said Friday its traffic rose 1 percent in August even as it cut capacity, exactly the combination airlines like to see as they adjust to the travel downturn in a recession.
Southwest’s load factor, or the percentage of seats filled, jumped 5.6 percentage points to 80.2 percent. Revenue passenger miles, or one seat flown one mile with a paying customer, rose to 6.69 billion, from 6.63 billion in August 2008. Capacity, measured as available seat miles, rose to 8.34 billion, from 8.88 billion a year ago.
Though Southwest flew fewer seats, which saves on expenses, more of the seats it did fly were full.
Through the first eight months of the year, Southwest’s traffic fell 0.8 percent to 50.51 billion revenue passenger miles, from 50.92 billion a year ago. Capacity fell 3.8 percent to 66.77 billion available seat miles, from 69.44 billion a year ago. Its load factor has risen 2.3 percentage points to 75.6 percent.