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Air Canada flights had fewer empty seats in February

Air Canada president and chief executive officer Calin Rovinescu said in a statement that the airline 'generated greater traffic in all markets Air Canada serves.'

Mark Blinch/Reuters/Mark Blinch/Reuters

Air Canada saw its flights take off with fewer empty seats in February compared with a year ago, as rival WestJet Airlines Ltd. reported the opposite trend last month, a key period for vacationing university and college students.

Air Canada's load factor, which measures how much of its capacity is used, rose to 76.8 per cent from 75.9 per cent in February, 2011.

The improvement came as Canada's largest airline saw its passenger traffic increase 6.5 per cent while system-wide capacity grew 5.3 per cent.

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"Led by an increase in traffic in the U.S. trans-border market of 10.7 per cent, we generated greater traffic in all markets Air Canada serves," Air Canada president and chief executive officer Calin Rovinescu said Monday in a statement.

WestJet, which has boosted its capacity compared with last year, said Monday its load factor dipped to 82.7 per cent for the month, a decline from 83.6 per cent at the same time a year earlier.

WestJet's traffic or revenue per passenger miles, increased 9.9 per cent while capacity grew 10.9 per cent in the period.

"We are pleased with our strong February load factor, given the capacity increases, and our forward bookings are healthy," WestJet president and CEO Gregg Saretsky said in a release.

Porter Airlines – a regional carrier based in Toronto – reported that it reached a record load factor of 56.1 per cent for the month, rising 5.5 per cent.

"February shows year-over-year improvement in all categories," said Porter president and CEO Robert Deluce.

"Seasonal flights to Myrtle Beach began this month and we are projecting another good year for this popular destination."

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