United Continental Holdings Inc. ( UAL ) reported near-flat traffic figures for the month of Oct 2014. The month's consolidated traffic - measured in revenue passenger miles (RPMs) - improved a mere 0.4% year over year to 17 billion. Growth in Latin American traffic offset the decline in the Atlantic division.
Consolidated capacity (or available seat miles/ASMs) for the month was 20.9 billion, up 0.7% from Oct 2013. The load factor (percentage of seats filled by passengers), however, deteriorated to 81.7% from 81.9% in the same month last year. The company registered a completion factor of 99.3%, with 77.4% of flights on schedule.
Through the first ten months of 2014, United Continental has generated 173.4 billion (up 0.3% year over year) and ASMs of 206.7 billion (up 0.1%), leading to a load factor of 83.9%.
The company's numbers lagged that of rival Southwest Airlines Co. ( LUV ), whose traffic was up more than 4% in Oct 2014. Improved capacity led to the healthy rise in traffic. RPMs came in at 9 billion, up 4.4% from almost 8.6 billion recorded in the comparable period a year ago.
Meanwhile, on a year-over-year basis, Southwest Airlines' capacity (available seat miles/ASMs) increased 0.4% to 10.8 billion. Load factor came in at 83.1%, up 320 basis points (bps) from the year-over-year equivalent of 79.9%.
In the first ten months of 2014, Southwest Airlines generated RPMs of 90.3 billion (up 3.4% year over year) and ASMs of 109.2 billion (down 0.1%), leading to a load factor of 82.7% (up 280 bps).
Another major player in the industry, American Airlines Group ( AAL ), also reported traffic data for the month of October. RPMs came in at 17.9 billion for the month, up 0.2% year over year.
Capacity increased 0.5% to 21.8 billion. Load factor came in at 82.2%, down 0.3% from the year-ago figure. The company still projects the consolidated passenger revenue per available seat mile for the final quarter of 2014 to be approximately flat to up 2%.
United Continental carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). A better-ranked stock in the airline space is Spirit Airlines ( SAVE ), with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). Southwest Airlines also carries a Zacks Rank #1.
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