Skip to main content

The latest round of October results for the airline industry showed the big carriers shrinking capacity and packing planes with more passengers, while many low-cost and regional carriers expanded their capacity.

On Wednesday,

Delta Air Lines

(DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines, Inc. Report

and United Airlines, unit of

UAL

(UAL) - Get United Airlines Holdings, Inc. Report

, released October results that echoed results from

Continental Airlines

(CAL) - Get Caleres, Inc. Report

and American Airlines, unit of

AMR

(AMR)

,

on Tuesday.

TheStreet Recommends

Delta said traffic, or revenue passenger miles, fell 0.6%, against a 3.4% drop in capacity, or available seat miles. Because capacity fell faster than traffic, the carrier filled more seats on its planes, coming in with a load factor of 72.9%, up 2 percentage points from last year. United, whose shares have been rallying

despite being worthless, said traffic fell by 2%, but with capacity down 9.6%, load factor came in at 76.6%, up nearly 6 percentage points from last year.

Results from network carriers show how capacity constraints and cost-cutting may benefit carriers with more leverage when an economic recovery comes, especially with planes packed with passengers. But because traffic continues to fall, it's also clear that pricing power remains weak and that discounted tickets continue to drive demand.

While the network carriers continue to manage operations with an eye on profits in late 2004, the low-cost and regional players are seeing traffic grow.

America West

(AWA)

, which recently unveiled growth plans for 2004 and beyond, said traffic rose 2.4% while capacity fell by 2.8%, boosting load factors to 77.8%, up nearly 4 percentage points from last year.

ATA Airlines

(ATAH)

said traffic increased 23.3%, while capacity grew 22.1%, helping boost load factors to 66.5%.

Elsewhere,

Alaska Airlines

(ALK) - Get Alaska Air Group, Inc. Report

, a regional player serving the Northwestern part of the U.S., said traffic increased by 17.1%, while capacity increased 9.3%, driving load factor to 65.4%, up from 61% a year-ago.

Airline stocks were lower Wednesday in reaction to the largely expected October results, with the Amex Airlines down 0.9%. Delta was off 20 cents, or 1.5%, at $12.75, while ATA was off 16 cents, or 1.7%, at $9.50. America West and Alaska Air were both unchanged.