Alaska Air traffic rises 5.1 percent in September

SEATTLE -- Alaska Airlines' parent company said Wednesday that its traffic rose 5.1 percent last month as its number of available seats grew.

Alaska, which is run by Alaska Air Group Inc., reported a 5 percent increase in capacity compared with a year earlier. Airlines can expand capacity by either adding flights or using larger planes.

Overall passenger numbers went up, but the carrier's occupancy rate _ how full planes are _ stayed at 84 percent.

The results were almost identical when including Alaska's regional carriers. Overall, traffic rose 5.1 percent on an identical increase in the number of available seats.

So far this year, traffic for the company is up 7.6 percent compared with the first nine months of 2011. Capacity is up by 5.5 percent, while the Seattle company's occupancy rate is 1.7 percent higher at 86.1 percent.

Alaska Air Group shares rose 88 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $36.56 in afternoon trading.