American Airlines (NASDAQ: AAL ) reported today that the combined revenue passenger miles (RPMs) of both American Airlines and US Airways rose 3.8% in January relative to last year. This compares to a 4.2% increase in RPMs seen by Delta Air Lines in January. Revenue passenger miles measure the total number of miles traveled by all paying passengers in a given period.
In total, American Airlines saw its biggest relative gain in traffic from its international operations, which rose by 350 million miles, or 6.7% to 5.6 billion miles. Its domestic flights were also up, but not nearly by the same magnitude, as RPMs there rose from 9.8 billion to 10.1 billion, an increase of 2.9%.
While the passenger miles flown on the domestic flights at American Airlines did not grow at the same rate as the international ones, Delta did manage to continue to improve its load factor -- measuring how well it utilized total miles flown in terms of the percentage of seats filled by paying passengers -- by 1.1 percentage points to 82.3% in the domestic segment. Its international load factor increased slightly from 78.3% to 78.5%. However the biggest gain percentage-wise came from its regional segment, which improved by 3.9 percentage points, but still lagged the other segments at 74.6%. Regional enplanements are about 24% of total enplanements.
Total passenger load factor was 80.3% for January, up 1.2 points compared to January 2013.
The company concluded by noting that as a result of the January results and expectations for February and March, it anticipates its passenger revenue for available seat mile will be up between 2% and 4% in the first quarter relative to last year.