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A Westjet plane sits at the gate as it loads passengers at the Calgary International Airport on Sunday February 26, 2012.

Chris Bolin/chris bolin The Globe and Mail

WestJet Airlines Ltd. flew more passengers in March than a year earlier, and said increased fare levels helped offset higher fuel costs.

Canada's second-biggest airline's load factor -- the percentage of available seats filled with paying customers -- rose to 86.2 per cent last month from 84.8 per cent in March 2011.

The airline flew nearly 104,000 more passengers this March compared to last year, it said in a statement.

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WestJet, which will launch a new regional operation to serve smaller Canadian destinations to boost profit, said traffic increased 9 per cent.

March is typically a strong traffic month, with schools closing for the spring break across Canada.

Shares of Calgary, Alberta-based WestJet, which competes with Air Canada, closed at $13.35 on Tuesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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