United Continental Holdings Inc. said traffic at United and Continental airlines fell at a faster pace in March.
Overall, carriers have been reporting improved traffic recently as demand for air travel bounces back from the recession. However, United Continental’s monthly traffic figures have been weakening since it began reporting combined data for the two airlines October. Other carriers have been reporting slowing traffic recently too, although discount airlines haven’t exhibited the creeping declines.
Thursday, United Continental — the world’s biggest airline — said traffic fell 2.2 percent in March. It reduced capacity by 2.1 percent, but load factor, which measures plane fullness, still declined to 79.8 percent from 83.3 percent.
The company also estimated that a key measure of profitability — passenger revenue per available seat mile — rose about 8 percent to 9 percent last month. In January and February, the estimate had been higher, but United Continental said PRASM results were reduced because of a change in accounting for a revenue-sharing agreement.
In its latest quarterly results, United Continental’s loss widened in the fourth quarter because of merger costs, but revenue growth was better than expected as traffic and capacity both rose.