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The Associated Press March 18, 2010, 6:41PM ET

Continental says bookings flat to 1 pct down

Continental Airlines Inc. says advance bookings as a percentage of available seats on U.S. flights are running flat to 1 percentage point lower than a year ago.

Executives at Continental and other airlines have made cautiously upbeat comments in recent weeks about a return of business travelers. But Continental's comments Thursday indicated travel demand is still sluggish.

Continental also said Thursday in a regulatory filing that it expects to receive six Boeing 787 aircraft in the last half of 2011. The 787 is made mostly from composite materials that are designed to be lighter and thus boost fuel efficiency.

Testing of the plane has been delayed two years, but Boeing hopes to start delivering the plane to airlines by the end of this year.

The news on bookings covered travel in the next six weeks, the airline said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Continental said it expects to report average occupancy rose 4 to 5 percentage points in the first quarter compared with the same period last year. Planes are more crowded because airlines have been reducing flights.

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