Key revenue measure falls at Southwest Airlines

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Associated Press

Posted on October 5, 2012 at 8:30 AM

DALLAS (AP) — Southwest Airlines Co.'s traffic fell in September and a key revenue measure declined as airlines haven't been able to raise prices as often as they did last year.

Southwest said Friday that passenger revenue for every seat flown one mile — a closely watched statistic for airlines — dropped by between 2 and 3 percent compared with September 2011. The figure had been rising about 2 percent for the previous two months.

The company, which also operates AirTran Airways, said it would show about a 1 percent gain in the revenue figure for the entire third quarter. Just a month ago, Southwest said the third-quarter gain would be 2 percent. It increased 5.5 percent in the second quarter.

Southwest, which carries more U.S. passengers than any other airline, raised fares eight times in 2011 to offset rising fuel prices but only about half that often this year.

Traffic fell 2.1 percent, as paying passengers flew 7.76 billion miles last month, compared with 7.93 billion miles in September 2011.

Southwest and AirTran reduced their combined passenger-carrying capacity by 1 percent as they operated fewer flights, but that still left more empty seats on the average flight.

Planes were 77 percent full, compared with 77.8 percent a year earlier.

For the third-quarter months of July, August and September, traffic dropped 0.6 percent, capacity was down 0.7 percent, and the average flight was 82.1 percent full, up from 82.0 percent a year earlier.

Southwest shares rose 3 cents to $9.13 per share in morning trading. Its shares traded as high as $10.05 in early February and as low as $7.37 in late November.

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