updated 4/20/2005 11:28:05 AM ET 2005-04-20T15:28:05

America West Holdings Corp., whose flagship carrier is in merger talks with US Airways Group Inc., said Wednesday it swung to a profit in the latest first quarter from a year-ago loss.

US Airways Chairman David Bronner confirmed Tuesday night that his company held advanced merger discussions with America West, but no deal is imminent. America West declined to comment.

America West’s net income totaled $33.6 million, or 62 cents per share, for the January-March period versus a loss of $1.6 million, or 4 cents per share, a year ago.

Total operating revenue increased 11.3 percent to $722.6 million from $649.3 million last year.

America West’s latest quarterly results include a gain of $60.5 million on fuel hedging transactions, charges of $800,000 related to the write-down of deferred aircraft rent payments associated with the return of one Boeing 737-200 aircraft and a $3.7 million loss on the sale and leaseback of one new Airbus 320 aircraft acquired during the first quarter 2005.

Excluding items, America West would have posted a loss of $10.8 million, or 30 cents per share, in the latest period.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for the company to post a loss of 61 cents per share in the latest period.

Revenue passenger miles increased 6.9 percent to a record 5.7 billion on 0.7 percent fewer available seat miles, which totaled 7.3 billion. This resulted in a first-quarter load factor of 77.7 percent, an increase of 5.5 points from the same period last year.

Chairman and CEO Doug Parker stated, “Although our first-quarter results continue to reflect the impact of high fuel prices, we are extremely pleased with our performance relative to our competitors. In particular, our nearly 8 percent increase in unit revenue during the first quarter was well in excess of the industry average and reflects growth in demand for our low-fare, high quality product.”

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