Southwest Airlines lost $16 million during the third quarter, although the airline said a surge in traffic kept things from being worse.
Southwest pinned the loss on fuel hedges and an early retirement program. Not counting those, it would have made a $23 million profit, a "remarkable accomplishment" for Southwest workers considering where the quarter started, said Gary C. Kelly, Southwest's chairman, president, and CEO.
"Sixty days ago, even a modest profit seemed unattainable," he said.
Traffic rose 4.7 percent for the quarter.
Still, revenue fell 7.8 percent to $2.67 billion. Southwest and other airlines have kept planes full with discounts. But many of those travelers have been vacationers looking for deals. Freer-spending business travel has dropped off sharply, making it hard for airlines to turn a profit even on strong traffic.
Southwest's loss worked out to 2 cents per share. The operating profit was 3 cents per share, a penny ahead of the expectations of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.
During the same period last year Southwest lost $120 million.