American and US Airways see more empty seats

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Passenger traffic on American Airlines and US Airways fell slightly last month, leaving a few more empty seats on planes, especially on flights between the U.S. and Europe.

American Airlines Group Inc. said Wednesday that it expects a key revenue figure to rise by between 0.5 percent and 1.5 percent for the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30. An increase in the statistic — revenue for every seat flown one mile — often indicates that passengers paid higher fares on average.

The Fort Worth-based company said that passengers flew 16.86 billion miles last month, down 0.2 percent from September 2013. Domestic traffic rose 1.4 percent, but international travel fell 4.3 percent, with the sharpest decline on trans-Atlantic flights.

American and US Airways increased passenger-carrying capacity last month by 1.6 percent, adding seats on both domestic and international flights.

With traffic down slightly, the increase in capacity resulted in more empty seats. The average flight was 80 percent full, down from 81.5 percent in September 2013. The change was more dramatic on U.S.-Europe flights, which averaged occupancy of 79.6 percent, a drop of 8 percentage points in a year, as international airlines added flights on those routes this year.

Shares of American Airlines fell 49 cents to $33.60 in morning trading. They started the day up 34 percent in 2014.

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