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January 19, 2012

Southwest posts $152 million fourth quarter profit

Southwest Airlines posted a $152 million fourth quarter profit despite a significant jump in jet fuel prices.

The Dallas-based carrier said its fourth quarter earnings increased 16 percent compared to the same period in 2010. Revenues, which include AirTran Airways results, jumped 31.9 percent to $4.1 billion.

Southwest bought AirTran for $1.4 billion in May. However, Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly said, "it will take several years to fully integrate AirTran into Southwest Airlines." He added that the company expects to get its single operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration during this quarter.

The carrier also posted its 39th consecutive annual profit, reporting a net income of $178 million in 2011, down 61 percent from 2010. Revenues grew 29.4 percent to $15.6 billion this year.

Higher fuel costs were to blame for the drop in annual profit. Southwest said it paid $3.18 per gallon for fuel in 2011, up 34.7 percent from the prior year.

Fourth quarter results included $86 million in positive special items. Without those accounting items, Southwest's earnings were $66 million, or 9 cents per share, beating Wall Street analysts estimates of 8 cents per share. Analysts do not include one-time accounting items.

Kelly was upbeat about the carrier's performance in the new year.

"Based on current traffic and booking trends, we expect another strong passenger revenue performance in the first quarter of 2012," he said.

Southwest executives will hold a conference call with analysts and investors at 11:30 a.m. CDT to discuss its earnings results.

-Andrea Ahles



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