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WestJet load factor up from year ago as traffic and capacity grows

A pilot taxis a Westjet Boeing 737-700 plane to a gate after arriving at Vancouver International Airport on February 3, 2014.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

WestJet Airlines Ltd. reported fuller planes in August with a load factor of 89.3 per cent, up from 87.9 per cent a year ago.

The increase in the proportion of seats filled came as the airline said Thursday that traffic increased 7.4 per cent compared with August, 2013, and capacity increased 5.7 per cent.

The Calgary-based airline said it flew 1.9 million passengers in August.

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National Bank analyst Cameron Doerksen said that even though WestJet has added capacity, domestic demand and prices are strong.

"Notably, the August load factor was the highest for any month in WestJet's history," Doerksen said in a research note.

WestJet has been adding capacity and expanding its operations including an announcement earlier this summer that it would increase its fleet to include wide-body aircraft that have longer range than its current Boeing 737s.

The airline said in July that it plans to operate four of wide-body planes initially, with their first flights going between Alberta and Hawaii during the 2015 winter season.

WestJet has said it expects to expand into overseas markets starting in the summer of 2016, but has not said if it will move beyond Europe to include Asia or other markets.

The airline began flying between St. John's and Dublin in June.

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