The company’s March passenger count increased 2.6% to 943,363, which was ahead of the year-to-date growth rate of 2.2%. Revenue passenger miles increased 7.2% year-over-year, which matched the year-to-date growth rate. Available seat miles grew 4.5% in March, faster than the year-to-date growth rate of 3.5%. Load factor improved to 85.0% from 82.9% one year ago. The March load factor was better than the year-to-date load factor of 84.0%.
Given the strong showing in March, the company now expects that first quarter operating revenue per available seat mile will be up between 6.5% and 8.0% after previous guidance called for growth between 4.0% and 7.0%.
In addition to boosting its operating revenue guidance, the company raised its cost per available seat mile excluding fuel and special items expectations to account for a newly ratified pilot contract. The company recognized a $7.50 million charge of wages and benefits expense relating to the ratification of a new contract with the Air Line Pilots Association. A special charge of about $20 million is expected to be recorded in the first quarter, but will not have an impact on Cost Per Available Seat Mile excluding fuel and special items.
The positive guidance update has helped shares of Hawaiian Holdings return to levels from two weeks ago.