WASHINGTON, D.C. — Most of the USA's biggest airlines operated their planes fuller last month than in any previous March. American, Delta, Continental, and United each reported their highest-ever percentages of filled seats for March. US Airways, the product of a late-2005 merger, filled a higher percentage of seats last month than in March 2006, the only comparable month. Northwest was close to a record March.
Each airline ran more than 80% full on average, meaning that many flights on the most popular routes at the most popular times ran full. In March, spring break vacationers and bad weather jammed even more people than normal into planes.
"The weather impact has been unusual in early 2007," said Tim Wagner of American Airlines. Due to cancellations, airlines had to consolidate passengers on fewer planes than initially planned. Planes were so full that passengers waited days to be rebooked on other flights.
No. 2 United reported the highest percentage of filled seats among big carriers: 85%. The timing of the Easter holiday may have affected the number, said United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski. Some early Easter-related travel appeared to fall into late March, she said. Packed planes in March may signal a continuation of uncomfortably full planes during the summer, when they're typically most crowded. American, for instance, reached its highest system-wide load factor for any month (87%) last July, Wagner said.
Source: USA Today