Two of Canada's largest airlines reported some record passenger numbers in December as global economic concerns appeared to have little effect on the quantity of travellers.
WestJet, the country's second-largest airline after Air Canada, said it flew a record 1.4 million passengers in December as the airline reported a load factor of 80.9 per cent, tying its second-highest December load factor ever.
Revenue passenger miles increased eight per cent from a year earlier as capacity — measured in available seat miles —grew 7.1 per cent over the same period.
"We finished the year with strong traffic results confirming that our capacity continues to be absorbed by the market," president and CEO Gregg Saretsky said in a release accompanying the results.
"On a full-year basis, we have flown over 867,000 additional guests in 2011 versus last year," he added.
Due to strong bookings made and flown in December, WestJet said it anticipates that the year-over-year revenue per available seat mile growth for the fourth quarter will now be closer to that achieved in the third quarter of 2011.
WestJet's 2011 load factor down slightly
For the full year, WestJet reported a load factor of 79.7 per cent, down slightly from 79.9 per cent last year as available seat miles grew 8.5 per cent to 21.2 billion from 19.5 billion. However, revenue seat miles lagged slightly, rising 8.2 per cent to 16.9 billion from 15.6 billion.
Toronto-based Porter, which offers routes in Eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, also reported a strong December, a month that featured continuing volatility on stock markers amid continuing fears for the global economy, including a return to recession in parts of Europe.
Its load factor for the month was 63.9 per cent, up 1.5 percentage points from December 2010 and a record for the airline.
The figure was based on 117.6 million available seat miles, an increase of 26.7 per cent over the same month in 2010 as the airline expanded its number of routes over the year, and 75.2 million revenue passenger miles, up 29.9 per cent.
For the full year, Porter said it flew a record 2.1 million passengers, up from 1.56 million the previous year.
"Porter is one of the fastest growing airlines in North America," president and CEO Robert Deluce said in highlighting the results. "We're proud of what we've accomplished as a team and are ready to make our mark in 2012."