* Q4 adjusted profit 33 cents vs estimate 29 cents
* Operating expenses fall 1 percent
* Shares rise 1 percent
Jan 23 U.S. carrier Southwest Airlines Co
posted a better-than-expected profit in the fourth
quarter, aided by higher fares and lower costs for fuel and
The carrier cited strong demand and forecast that unit
revenue, or passenger revenue per available seat mile, would
rise in the current quarter.
Net income rose to $212 million, or 30 cents a share, in the
fourth quarter, from $78 million, or 11 cents a share, a year
Excluding special items, the profit was 33 cents a share.
That compared with 29 cents expected by analysts, according to
Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Quarterly revenue increased 6 percent to $4.43 billion,
compared with $4.39 billion estimated by analysts. The average
airfare rose 5 percent to $156.05.
Operating expenses fell 1 percent, with fuel and oil costs
down 9 percent. Expenses for maintenance materials and repairs
dropped about 12 percent.
Dallas-based Southwest added seats to planes, raised baggage
fees at its AirTran unit and curbed flying to unprofitable
markets to improve results as it faced rising labor costs.
Southwest is still retiring older Boeing 737 planes to help
reduce maintenance costs.
Southwest is the only major U.S. airline that has not
restructured in bankruptcy, and its cost advantage against
rivals has narrowed.
Southwest plans to start international service under its own
brand this year, and said on Thursday it expects to complete the
absorption of AirTran this year and retire the brand.
Southwest also said it bid on takeoff and landing rights
that the newly merged American Airlines Group was
required to divest at Reagan National Airport near Washington.
Late last year Southwest bought slots at New York's LaGuardia
Airport that American agreed to shed to settle a U.S. Justice
Department lawsuit over its merger with US Airways.
Southwest shares rose 1 percent to $21.98 in morning
trading. Shares of other airlines were down, along with the
broader market. Delta Air Lines Inc was off 0.9
percent at $32.56, and United Continental dropped 3
percent at $47.70.
United Continental on Thursday reported a quarterly profit
that easily topped expectations, helped by an increase in
passenger travel, higher ticket prices and lower fuel costs.