Traffic Surge Stops SWA Free Fall

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    A late surge in traffic helped Southwest curtail losses.

    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.