Southwest Airlines' profit takes off

/ Source: The Associated Press

Southwest Airlines' fourth-quarter profit rose 57 percent as revenue rose 8.3 percent.

The airline said Thursday it earned $66 million, or 8 cents a share, for the October-December period, up from $42 million, or 5 cents a share, a year earlier.

Operating revenues for the fourth quarter totaled $1.52 billion, up from $1.4 billion in the fourth quarter in 2002.

Chief executive James F. Parker said the airline managed to stay ahead in revenues despite increasing labor and jet fuel costs that helped boost operating expenses by 7.1 percnt.

"As expected, we are experiencing some cost pressures. Our low cost competitive advantage will endure, however," Parker said in a statement.

For the year, the airline said it earned $442 million, or 54 cents a share, compared to $241 million, or 30 cent a share, in 2002. Operating revenues increased 7.5 percent to $5.9 billion for the year from $5.5 billion a year ago.