American Airlines traffic rises from a year ago

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Consumers seem not to care whether the airline they fly is under bankruptcy protection.

Passengers flew more miles on American Airlines last month than they did in January 2011 despite the company's well-publicized bankruptcy status.

Led by growth on international flights, American's paying passengers flew 10 billion miles last month, up 1.4 percent from 9.87 billion miles a year earlier. The airline said Monday that international traffic rose 5 percent, with gains of more than 3 percent to Europe and Latin America and 17 percent in its much smaller U.S.-Asia business.

That helped the nation's third-biggest airline overcome a 1.1 percent decline in U.S. traffic.

American cut its passenger-carrying capacity by 2.1 percent -- a 4.4 percent reduction in the U.S. and a 1.2 percent increase on international routes. Airlines can increase capacity by operating more flights or using bigger planes that carry more people.

The combination of higher traffic and lower capacity meant fewer empty seats. The average flight was 78.5 percent full, compared with 75.8 percent a year earlier. Occupancy tends to be lower in the winter than in the summer.

American's short-haul affiliate, American Eagle, reported that traffic rose 10.3 percent. Eagle carries less than one-tenth the traffic handled by American.

American, Eagle and parent AMR Corp. all filed for bankruptcy protection on Nov. 29 and seek to cut labor costs and debt loads while in Chapter 11.

Earlier Monday, Delta Air Lines Inc., the nation's second-biggest airline, said its January traffic fell by 1.5 percent, with both international and domestic business down from January 2011.

Delta, however, reported that a key statistic -- the amount of revenue per seat for every mile flown -- jumped 14.5 percent, as airlines continue to benefit from several fare increases imposed last year.

American does not disclose revenue statistics on a monthly basis.