Hawaiian Holdings (HA 1.91%) stock had a good Thursday. On a day when a broad stock market rally sent the S&P 500 up by almost 1.5%, Hawaiian shares did even better, gaining 5.4%. And the good news didn't stop even there.

After the close of trading, the parent company of Hawaiian Airlines published data on its traffic during the first quarter, and the news sent the stock up a further 2.4% after hours.

Hawaiian Airlines airplane in flight

Image source: Hawaiian Airlines.

Year to date, the total number of passengers transported on Hawaiian Airlines aircraft declined 16% to 2.4 million. Revenue passenger miles (RPM), or the total distance traveled by all passengers on its planes, has fallen 10% to 3.7 billion, despite available seat miles (ASM -- basically, the total amount of flights conducted) rising 3%.

All of which paints the picture for you: Plenty of planes flying, but with far fewer passengers aboard. Hawaiian's load factor -- the percentage of seats filled on planes that flew -- fell 10.5 percentage points to 74.6%.

As you can imagine, most of the drop-off came in March as the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States hard. Last month, Hawaiian experienced a 45% decline in total passenger traffic, a 41% decline in RPM -- and also a 12% decline in ASM as it reacted to the decline in demand for air travel by cutting flights.

Despite its efforts to match supply with demand, Hawaiian's load factor plummeted 28.4 percentage points at 58%.

All of that sounds pretty bad, and yet Hawaiian Holdings' share price went up after the news came out, which can mean only one thing: Bad as the numbers were, investors expected them to be much worse.