Airlines flying fuller More than 80% of seats filled in June, carriers report

U.S. airlines are reporting record loads in June, with carriers saying that they filled well over 80 percent of their seats last month.

The parade of records was led Tuesday by United Airlines Inc., which said it put paying passengers in 89.1 percent of its available seats in June.

Not far behind was American Airlines Inc., which said Tuesday that it filled 87.1 percent of its airplane seats. Depending on final numbers, that would beat last July's record of 87.0 percent.

On Monday, Continental Airlines Inc. reported a load factor of 87.7 percent, a one-month record.

Southwest Airlines Co., which typically trails other carriers on load factors, reported that it filled 82.1 percent of seats in June, its best month ever. It had a load factor of 80.4 percent last year.

United and American reported declines in traffic. However, both carriers are cutting capacity, and traffic declined less than capacity.

The airline industry measures traffic by multiplying the number of passengers by the miles flown. Capacity is calculated by multiplying airplane seats by the number of miles flown by those airplanes.

American said its traffic was off 3.5 percent from June 2006, with capacity down 5.4 percent.

United reported a 0.3 percent fall in traffic, with capacity down 1.2 percent.

Southwest said traffic jumped 11.0 percent on an 8.7 percent increase in capacity.

Chief executive Gary Kelly told analysts last week to expect record passenger loads in June.

"We worked hard to earn that traffic, though," Mr. Kelly said, "so yields will be down year to year."

Yields are average fares per passenger per mile flown.

Airline stocks climbed Tuesday, led by an 11.1 percent increase in Continental shares, up $3.75 to $37.62. American Airlines parent AMR Corp. rose 4.8 percent.

On Monday, Continental estimated that its June unit revenue climbed about 4 percent over last June.

J.P. Morgan airline analyst Jamie Baker said Continental's report "bodes well for the industry, in our view, and suggests a stronger-than-expected start to the all-important summer travel system."

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