WestJet flew fuller planes in September

Oct 3 (Reuters) - WestJet Airlines Ltd said on Wednesday i t flew fuller planes in September t han in the same month a year earlier, helping Canada's No. 2 carrier deliver a third-quarter load factor that exceeded its expectations.

The strong results capped off a busy summer that drove higher customer traffic and passenger levels.

The September load factor, or percentage of available seats filled with paying customers, rose to a record high of 79.1 percent in September, compared with 74.7 percent a year ea rlier.

Traffic was up 7.7 percent and capacity, or available seat miles, grew 1.7 percent in the month.

"The record load factor exceeded our expectations this quarter and demand remains healthy as we begin the transition into our winter schedule," WestJet Chief Executive Greg Saretsky said in a statement.

Last month, WestJet said it reached a new code-share agreement with International Airlines Group's British Airways to sell seats on some of its flights.

Under code-share deals, airlines sell space on one another's flights to boost revenue as they offer more destinations to passengers while controlling costs.

Closely held Porter Airlines, a small, short-haul carrier, reported a load factor of 62.3 percent for September, down 5.7 points as much of its Labor Day traffic occurred in August because of the early holiday.

Even so its third-quarter load factor of 69.1 percent was a company record.

"We are also seeing higher average fares with the transition back to business travel in the fall season," Chief Executive Robert Deluce said in a statement.

Traffic data is expected later on Wednesday, from Air Canada, the country's largest airline.

(Reporting by S. John Tilak and Susan Taylor; )

((john.tilak@thomsonreuters.com; +1 416 687 7918 ))