Southwest Airlines Profit Falls on Fuel, Economy

Southwest Airlines on Thursday posted lower first-quarter earnings as a weak U.S. economy and record fuel costs took their toll on the leading U.S. discount carrier.

Quarterly net profit for Southwest was $34 million, or 5 cents per share, down from $93 million, or 12 cents per share, in the same period last year.

Excluding one-time items, profit was $43 million, or 6 cents a share, compared to $33 million, or 4 cents a share in the year-ago period.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 1 cent a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

First quarter revenue rose 15 percent to $2.53 billion.

U.S. airlines are suffering under record fuel prices and a weakening domestic economy.

Although Southwest has a history of successfully hedging against higher fuel costs, it said on Thursday it is concerned about soaring energy costs.

These tough conditions helped prompt a proposed merger between Delta Air

Lines and Northwest Airlines and could spur a wave of further consolidation amid fears of falling travel demand.

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