Jan 23 (Reuters) - Alaska Air Group reported a higher fourth-quarter profit on Thursday, aided by lower fuel costs.
Net income was $78 million, or $1.11 a diluted share, up 77 percent from $44 million, or 61 cents a share, a year earlier.
Excluding fuel hedge gains, adjusted profit was $1.10 a share. Analysts expected $1.07 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. There were fewer shares outstanding in the latest period.
Fourth-quarter revenue rose 7 percent to $1.2 billion. Operating expenses were up 2 percent, but fuel costs fell 5 percent.
Alaska Air, the parent company of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air Industries, began paying a quarterly dividend last year, signaling a continued effort by U.S. airlines to enhance shareholder returns.