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WestJet sees modest passenger rise in December

WestJet Airlines Ltd (WJA-T) filled slightly more seats in December, and said strong bookings would boost a revenue benchmark that it had previously forecast would be hurt by late school breaks.

Canada's No. 2 airline said on Thursday that its load factor, the percentage of available seats filled with paying customers, rose to 80.9 percent in December, from 80.3 percent last year. Capacity, measured in available seat miles, rose 7.1 percent, while traffic increased 8.0 percent.

In December WestJet said late holiday bookings meant revenue per available seat mile, a measure used to compare revenue performance among airlines, would grow 4 to 5 percent in the fourth quarter, not the 5.8 percent seen in the previous quarter. Thursday's forecast was more optimistic.

"Due to strong bookings made and flown in December, WestJet 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," the company said in a release.

Closely held regional carrier Porter Airlines said its December load factor rose to 63.9 percent from 62.4 percent, as capacity rose 26.7 percent, and traffic increased 29.9 percent.

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