The Associated Press March 3, 2011, 5:45PM ET

International travel boosts American's traffic

American Airlines' February traffic rose 2.2 percent thanks to a pickup in international flying, but there were more empty seats as the carrier added new flights.

American, which is trimming its 2011 growth plans, said Thursday that paying passengers flew 8.63 billion miles last month, up from 8.44 billion in February 2010.

International traffic rose 6 percent. Routes in the Pacific and Latin America were strong, but domestic traffic was flat.

The airline increased capacity by 3.1 percent, to 11.53 billion available seat miles. A seat mile is one seat flown one mile. American boosted international capacity 8.5 percent and shrank capacity in the U.S. by 0.2 percent.

With overall capacity growing faster than traffic, the average flight last month was 74.8 percent filled, compared with 75.5 percent a year ago. With most of the new capacity on international routes, that's also where the percentage of empty seats grew the fastest.

On Tuesday, American announced it would cut its planned 2011 capacity growth by 1 percentage point. American and its regional partner, American Eagle, both owned by AMR Corp., had originally expected to boost capacity by about 4.3 percent.

Hudson Securities analyst Daniel McKenzie said in a note to clients that AMR didn't cut capacity enough. AMR was the only major U.S. airline company to lose money last year, and McKenzie said that means American has more unprofitable routes than other airlines.

Airlines add or cut capacity by adding or cutting flights or switching to bigger or smaller planes.


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