updated 1/6/2010 12:07:50 PM ET 2010-01-06T17:07:50

American Airlines said Wednesday that December traffic fell 1.6 percent, but planes were fuller as the airline cut capacity by reducing flights.

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American said paying passengers flew 10.16 billion miles last month, down from 10.32 billion miles in December 2008.

Capacity fell by 3.3 percent, to 12.60 billion available seat miles, which is a measure of one seat flown one mile. Airlines cut capacity by eliminating flights or using smaller planes with fewer seats.

The average occupancy or load factor on American flights was 80.6 percent, up from 79.2 percent a year earlier.

American's performance varied by geography. Traffic fell 2.1 percent in the U.S. but only 0.7 percent on international flights, which were brought down by a slump in trans-Atlantic business.

American and other airlines have battled a slowdown among business travelers, who fly frequently and often pay higher fares. Airlines were also not able to raise fares as often in 2009 as in previous years due to the economic slowdown.

For the full year, traffic dropped 7.1 percent, to 122.38 billion miles flown by paying passengers. American cut capacity 7.2 percent, to 151.71 billion available seat miles, and average occupancy rose to 80.7 percent from 80.6 percent in 2008.

Shares of parent AMR Corp. fell 7 cents to $8.29 in morning trading.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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