US Airline Industry Reports Passenger Traffic is Climbing

Southwest Airlines Co. said Friday that its number of paying passengers flew 7.9 billion miles last month, up 6.4 percent from a year earlier.

Southwest also reported that its seating capacity, or the number of available seats, rose 3.2 percent compared to the same time period a year ago. The occupancy rate of those available seats rose to 77.8 percent from 75.5 percent in September 2010.

The reported profit that the airline made from each of those passengers increased at twice the pace of traffic, because of higher fares. Passenger revenue per available seat mile, a measure of what the airline makes to fly a paying passenger a single mile, rose 12 percent from a year ago.

Traffic was also up for American Airlines in September. The Fort Worth-based airline said this week that it boarded 6.8 million passengers last month, up from 6.7 million in September 2010.

American reported a September load factor of 81.4 percent, which was 1.3-point increase from last year.
American’s regional sister airline, American Eagle, said it boarded 1.65 million passengers in September, up from 1.57 million last September.

American Eagle’s September load factor was 72.6 percent, an increase of 0.9 points compared to the same period last year.

American Eagle’s capacity increased 7.8 percent for the month, year over year.
Alaska Airlines passenger traffic rose 10.4 percent in September on a similar uptick in the carrier’s number of available seats.

Paying passengers flew 1.81 billion miles last month, up from 1.64 billion a year earlier. Alaska Airlines’ capacity rose 7.2 percent to 2.15 available seat miles. Airlines can increase capacity by flying bigger planes or adding more aircraft to their fleets.

Flights were also fuller last month. Alaska Airlines occupancy rate rose 2.4 percentage points to 83.9 percent.
Traffic on Hawaiian Airlines rose 5 percent in September but there were more empty seats as capacity increased more than traffic growth.

Passengers flew about 837.2 million miles, up 19.4 percent from 701.1 million miles in the prior-year period.
For the year to date, Hawaiian’s traffic climbed 2.9 percent, capacity increased 19.3 percent and average occupancy declined to 84.4 percent from 85.4 percent.

Frontier Airlines experienced a 5 percent increase in passengers in September compared with the same month a year ago, the airline reported Wednesday.

Frontier reported 1,257,797 passengers last month, up from 1,203,083 in September 2010. That follows a 3.8 percent year-over-year increase in August.

The airline’s revenue passenger miles — the number of paying passengers multiplied by miles flown — rose 2.0 percent in September from a year earlier, to 1.04 billion.
Frontier’s load factor — the percentage of its capacity actually used by passengers — rose by 3 percentage points from a year earlier, to 86 percent.

Frontier Airlines operates major hubs at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport and Denver International Airport. The airline, which absorbed Midwest Airlines of Oak Creek, is a subsidiary of Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holding