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US airlines now masters of filling seats

Published Tue, Sep 9, 2014 · 10:00 PM
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[WASHINGTON] US airlines have recently become savvier about squeezing money from every square foot of their planes. They're shrinking legroom, pulling out lavatories and wedging in more seats. But behind all of that is a more elemental strategy: Airlines are paying far more attention to how many of those seats are filled.

Never have domestic carriers been better at making sure their flights are packed with passengers. They've managed, over the past 10 years, to bring their "load factor" - the percentage of filled seats - from about 73 per cent to 84 per cent on domestic flights, a high-water mark for the industry, according to government data.

Some airlines, such as Frontier, fly at nearly full capacity every time. That's a major leap from earlier decades, when carriers were happy to fly at two-thirds or even half full.

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