The carrier's profits increased significantly compared to the third quarter 2012 when it posted a slim $16 million profit. Revenues in the quarter grew 5.5 percent to $4.5 billion even though the airline carried 4.6 percent fewer passengers.
The average fare grew 11.3 percent to $159.39 while the average length of a passenger's trip was 1,000 miles, up 4.3 percent. The carrier increased capacity by 1 percent and as a result, its load factor dropped 1.3 percentage points to 80.8 percent.
Southwest, which purchased AirTran Airways in 2011, said it expects to have AirTran fully integrated by the end of 2014. It has about 15 percent of its network still operating under the AirTran brand.
"As the network stabilizes in the future, AirTran becomes fully converted, and fewer schedule changes are made, this should provide a further boost to unit revenues," said Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly. "While unit revenue trends were impacted by the recent government shutdown, current bookings for the combined November/December holiday period are strong."
Excluding one-time accounting items, Southwest said it earned $241 million, or 34 cents per share, which matched Wall Street analysts' earnings estimates, according to First Call.
Southwest executives will discuss their third quarter financial results on a conference call with analysts and investors at 11:30 a.m. CDT.