UPDATE 1-Southwest Airlines quarterly profit tops estimates

Thu Apr 24, 2014 9:49am EDT

* Adjusted first quarter EPS 18 cents vs estimate 16 cents

* Average fare increases (Adds estimates comparison)

April 24 (Reuters) - Southwest Airlines said on Thursday its quarterly that more than doubled as average fares increased and it held down costs.

The carrier cited strong bookings and revenue trends for April.

Net income was $152 million, or 22 cents a share, in the first quarter, compared with $59 million, or 8 cents a share, a year earlier.

Adjusted for gains tied to fuel contracts and acquisition costs, profit was 18 cents a share, versus 16 cents expected by analysts on average, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Quarterly revenue rose 2 percent to $4.17 billion. Southwest canceled more than 7,500 flights because of bad weather, reducing revenue by $45 million. Total operating expenses fell 1.6 percent, with fuel and oil costs down about 10 percent.

The average fare rose 3 percent to $156.96. Passenger revenue per available seat mile, an important measure, rose 3.5 percent to 12.9 cents.

Southwest raised baggage fees at its AirTran unit, added seats to planes and cut flights to unprofitable markets to improve results as it faced rising labor costs.

The Dallas-based carrier has many growth catalysts ahead. It plans to start international service under the Southwest brand and long-haul flights from Dallas Love Field later this year. It acquired takeoff and landing rights at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington and New York's LaGuardia that American Airlines Group had to divest as a condition of its merger with US Airways.

(Reporting by Karen Jacobs in Atlanta; Editing by Franklin Paul and Nick Zieminski)

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