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Continental Shows Weak Numbers, Easter Benefit

Continental's April traffic numbers and revenue estimates are out, and they look slightly better than what we saw in March. Does this mean things have hit a bottom? Maybe, but we need to remember that Easter shifted from March to April this year, and that has a big impact.

Continental actually was able to fill more seats in April this year than last thanks to fewer seats being out there. Their overall load factor was actually up 2.9 points. This held up throughout the airline's route system, so even international was ok, though it required larger capacity cuts (eg, transatlantic down 10 percent).

And while Revenue per Available Seat Mile (RASM) for March officially came in down 19.6 percent, April is expected to be merely down between 12.5 and 13.5 percent year over year. Sounds great, right? Well, sort of, but we have to remember the Easter shift. March of 2008 had Easter while March of 2009 did not, so you would expect there to be a big drop in traffic even if regular demand had held up. It obviously didn't, so the compounded impact was a mess.

April 2008, on the other hand, didn't have Easter but April 2009 did. So any lowered traffic demand would be muted by the natural increase that comes from Easter travel. In other words, there was some noise in both these numbers, so it's important to keep in mind that things aren't as rosy as it may look.

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