January 21, 2010 / 1:00 PM / 9 years ago

Southwest posts Q4 profit as costs drop

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) posted a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Thursday helped by a drop in costs and growing signs that travel demand was gathering momentum.

Southwest reported net profit of $116 million, or 16 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $56 million, or 8 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, the carrier posted a profit of 10 cents per share. Analysts on average had expected the carrier to post a profit of 7 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue fell less than 1 percent to $2.7 billion. Total operating expenses fell 4.5 percent.

Southwest is the only major U.S. carrier that has refrained from charging checked bag fees. The airline has said its strategy has helped it gain market share.

Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman, editing by Dave Zimmerman

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