WestJet's increase in seat capacity outpaced the rise in passenger traffic over the past year, resulting in a small drop in the load factor, which measures how full the airline's flights are overall.

The Calgary-based airline's load factor for May was 78.5 per cent, a decrease of 0.7 percentage points over a year ago. The number of passengers who flew on WestJet increased by 7.9 per cent in that time and capacity grew by 9.1 per cent.

When measured in terms of "revenue passenger miles" (the number of paying passengers multiplied by the distance travelled), passenger traffic went up 8.2 per cent between May 2012 and May 2013.

The airline flew 1.5 million people in May, or approximately 110,000 more than a year ago, WestJet said in a news release.

Its load factor for the year so far is 82.9 per cent, the same as in 2012 at this time.

Strong Q1 earnings

Last month, WestJet announced that it had the best first-quarter earnings to date.

Its net income in the first quarter of 2013 rose 33.3 per cent to $91.1 million, or 68 cents per share. That compared with net earnings of $68.3 million, or 49 cents per share, in the same 2012 period.

Total revenue was up 8.6 per cent at $967.2 million from $891 million a year ago.

These results mark WestJet's 32nd consecutive quarter of profitability.

The airline also said in May that it will be adding daily flights between Calgary and Brandon, Man., to the routes covered by its regional fleet, WestJet Encore. Those flights won't begin until Sept. 3 while WestJet Encore's first regional flights are set to take off June 24 — with service from Calgary to Nanaimo and Fort St. John, B.C.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that an increase in WestJet's seat capacity did not keep up with a rise in the number of passengers. In fact, seat capacity increased more than passenger traffic, which is why the load factor went down.
    Sep 13, 2013 12:45 AM ET