Regional carrier American Eagle said Wednesday that December traffic rose 6.6 percent, in contrast to a drop in flying on its larger affiliate, American Airlines.
Eagle carries passengers to and from smaller cities to hub airports, where many of them connect to other flights. Despite the pickup in traffic, Eagle flights were still far less crowded than those of American and most larger airlines.
Last month, paying passengers on Eagle flew 627 million miles, up from 588.2 million miles in December 2008. That increase compared to a decline of 1.6 percent in December traffic on American Airlines.
With more passengers, Eagle raised capacity - airlines do that by adding flights or using larger planes with more seats. Capacity rose 5.5 percent, to 883.1 million available seat miles, which is a measure of one seat flown one mile.
The average occupancy or load factor on Eagle flights was 71 percent, up from 70.3 percent a year earlier.
For all of 2009, Eagle's traffic fell 3 percent, to 7.69 billion miles flown by paying passengers. Eagle cut capacity 4.7 percent, to 10.76 billion available seat miles, and average occupancy rose to 71.5 percent from 70.2 percent in 2008.