New performance reports from airlines suggest that jetliners in the USA flew more full last month than in any April in history.

And the early results from April, which indicate that more than 80% of U.S. airlines' seats were filled with paying passengers, portend a record-setting — and uncomfortably crowded — summer travel season ahead.

Seven airlines that have reported for April all show fuller planes. No. 4 Northwest ran fullest: 84.9%. No. 1 American filled 81.7% of its seats. And No. 5 Continental filled 82.9%. No. 3 Delta, despite a public battle with pilots over cost cuts that included threats of a strike or shutdown in mid-April, filled 77.6% of its seats. Even discounters Southwest and AirTran, which normally record load factors lower than the big network carriers, came close to filling 80% of their April seats.

Filing such a high percentage of available seats systemwide means that flights on the most popular routes at the most convenient times were likely to be flying full. Traveler Lou DeLuco, a sale representative from Scottsdale, Ariz., said the crowded conditions lately have landed him more and more often "in the back of the plane or in the dreaded middle seat."

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