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( AAI) reported the highest March load factor and revenue passenger miles total in its history.

The carrier said March load factor was 83.8%, up 3.1 points from the same month a year earlier, while revenue passenger miles rose 9.6% to 1.7 million. The increase in RPMs was coupled with a 5.5% capacity increase, a favorable indicator because revenue passenger miles grew more than capacity.

AirTran also reported first quarter records: a 77.2% load factor and 4.4 million revenue passenger miles, up 7.5% from the same quarter a year earlier.

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AirTran was the second carrier to report March traffic. Earlier,


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said its revenue per available seat mile rose about 15% in March. UBS Analyst Kevin Crissey said the number was disappointing, while JP Morgan analyst Jamie Baker said it was ahead of his 13% forecast.

Baker said he reduced his first quarter loss estimate to 78 cents from 83 cents. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters estimate a first quarter loss of 57 cents.

In mid-morning trading, AirTran stock was up one cent to $5.08. Most airlines were down. Continental stock was down 52 cents to $21.48.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.