Air Canada, WestJet say July 31 was busiest flying day ever

The skies over Canada were especially busy in July, with both Air Canada and WestJet saying they set all-time single-day records for the number of passengers on the last day of the month.

Air Canada said it flew more than 150,000 passengers on July 31, the Friday before what was a long weekend in most of the country. WestJet flew 72,240 passengers on that day — a single-day record for that airline, too.

"A weak Canadian dollar makes us more attractive to international tourists," said Queen's University business professor Ken Wong, who noted that the Pan Am Games and the Caribbean Carnival both attracted large numbers of tourists to the Toronto area in mid- to late July.

For the month as a whole, both airlines said traffic was up over last year. Air Canada said its total revenue passenger miles (RPMs) — the key metric for traffic — were up 10.5 per cent in July. The airline said its load factor — the percentage of available seats occupied by paying passengers — hit a record 87.3 per cent.

"Air Canada generated greater traffic in all markets, resulting in unprecedented volumes of passengers," said airline CEO Calin Rovinescu in a statement.

Montreal-based Air Canada said its traffic growth was led by U.S. transborder and international market growth. It also credited the "strategic deployment" of its discount brand, Air Canada Rouge, to "compete more effectively in leisure markets."

Regional growth

It was much the same story at Calgary-based WestJet, which said it flew a record 1.9 million passengers in the month. It said July traffic was up 5.0 per cent over last year.

"We are pleased with our strong year-over-year traffic growth," said WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky.

WestJet credited the traffic increase in part to its regional brand, Encore, which launched new service last month to Halifax, Sydney, N.S., St. John's, Deer Lake, N.L., and Gander, N.L.

Both airlines have recently reported profit increases as they benefited from more traffic, lower jet fuel prices and new baggage fees.

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