Raising new fears of an industry wide decline in consumer demand for air travel, Continental Airlines reported a March consolidated (mainline plus regional) load factor of 79.4 percent, 2.9 points below the March 2008 consolidated load factor. The carrier also reported a mainline load factor of 79.9 percent, 2.7 points below the March 2008 mainline load factor. Continental's March domestic mainline load factor of 84.3 percent is 0.9 points below the March 2008 domestic mainline load factor, and the March international mainline load factor of 75.8 percent is 4.2 points below March 2008.
For March 2009, consolidated passenger revenue per available seat mile (RASM) is estimated to have decreased between 19.5 and 20.5 percent compared to March 2008, while mainline passenger RASM is estimated to have decreased between 18.5 and 19.5 percent compared to March 2008. For February 2009, consolidated passenger RASM decreased 11.5 percent compared to February 2008, while mainline passenger RASM decreased 10 percent compared to February 2008.
In March 2009, Continental flew 7.5 billion consolidated revenue passenger miles (RPMs) and 9.4 billion consolidated available seat miles (ASMs), resulting in a consolidated traffic decrease of 9.7 percent and a consolidated capacity decrease of 6.4 percent as compared to March 2008. In March 2009, Continental flew 6.7 billion mainline RPMs and 8.3 billion mainline ASMs, resulting in a mainline traffic decrease of 10 percent and a mainline capacity decrease of 7 percent as compared to March 2008. Domestic mainline traffic was 3.4 billion RPMs in March 2009, down 12.4 percent from March 2008, and domestic mainline capacity was 4.0 billion ASMs, down 11.5 percent from March 2008, Continental said.
On a positive note, Continental said it ended the first quarter 2009 with an unrestricted cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments balance of approximately $2.65 billion.