UPDATE 2-US Airways profit beats Street; load factor rises
* Adjusted Q1 profit 31 cents/share vs Street view 28 cents
* Merger with American Air still seen closing in 3rd quarter
* Shares up 3 percent
April 23 (Reuters) - US Airways Group Inc reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Tuesday as it flew fuller planes and boosted revenue, and its shares rose 3 percent.
The carrier, which plans to merge with AMR Corp unit American Airlines this year and form the world's largest airline, said first-quarter net income was $44 million, or 26 cents a share, compared with $48 million, or 28 cents a share, a year earlier.
Excluding one-time items, profit came to 31 cents a share, topping analysts' average forecast of 28 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Operating revenue rose 3.5 percent to $3.4 billion. Passenger revenue per available seat mile, an important measure called unit revenue, was up 1.3 percent.
Expenses rose 2.2 percent, with costs tied to salaries up 5 percent.
Load factor, or the percentage of seats filled, was 81.7 percent in the quarter for US Air and its regional carriers, compared with 79.3 percent a year earlier.
US Airways said it expects the merger with American, which should produce more than $1 billion in cost savings by 2015, to be completed in the third quarter.
Shares of US Airways were up 49 cents to $16.01 in morning trading.
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