Southwest Airlines posts quarterly profit

Thu Oct 18, 2012 7:37am EDT

(Reuters) - Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) reported that it swung to a quarterly profit against a year-earlier loss, but operating expenses rose and total revenue was flat as the average airfare edged lower.

The company on Thursday said unit revenue, a key measure of pricing power, was trending stronger than a year ago so far in the current quarter, but added it would need to more forcefully keep costs down over the next year in the wake of rising fuel prices.

Net income was $16 million, or 2 cents a share in the third quarter, compared with a loss of $140 million, or 18 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, which came to $81 million, profit was 13 cents per share.

Revenue was $4.3 billion. Operating expenses rose 4.2 percent even as fuel and oil costs fell 3.7 percent. Costs for maintenance materials and repairs rose 10 percent and expenses tied to salaries and wages grew nearly 4 percent.

(Reporting by Karen Jacobs; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Maureen Bavdek)

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