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American’s traffic dips while Southwest’s numbers grow

American Airlines’ passenger traffic dropped 0.2 percent in September as the airline increased its capacity by 1.6 percent, the company said.

It said its load factor also decreased 1.5 percentage points to 80.0 in September.

American said it expects unit revenue to be up 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent for the third quarter and estimates its pretax profit margin excluding special items will be in the 10-12 percent range.

In an investor filing made Wednesday, American said it expects total capacity to be up 2.2 percent over 2013 as it adds larger aircraft to the fleet and retires smaller planes.

American had about $8.8 billion in cash and short-term investments as of Sept. 30. The airline also said it expects to pay $2.95 to $3 per gallon of jet fuel in the third quarter.

“Management has embraced current fuel prices, affording close to $300 million of Q4 savings,” J.P. Morgan analyst Jamie Baker wrote in a research note where he lowered his third-quarter earnings estimates for the carrier.

Shares of American (ticker: AAL) dropped $1.09 to close at $33.00 on Wednesday.

Separately, Southwest Airlines said its passenger traffic grew 5.1 percent in September while slightly increasing its capacity by 0.7 percent.

The Dallas-based airline said its load factor rose 3.4 percentage points to 80.5 percent for the month.

Southwest said it expects unit revenue to increase about 5 percent from September 2013.

Shares of Southwest (ticker: LUV) were down 12 cents, closing at $32.11 on Wednesday.

Southwest “has consistently been exceeding expectations on revenue over the last few months,” Wolfe Research analyst Hunter Keay told investors in a research note where he raised his third-quarter earnings estimates for the carrier.

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