During traditionally slow winter months, Southwest posts a record profit of $152 million in 1Q

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DALLAS – Southwest Airlines Co. said Thursday that it made a record $152 million in the first quarter, more than doubling the $59 million it earned during the same time last year.

The strong profit during a time of year that is traditionally the slowest for airlines is good news for the Dallas-based carrier, which has been struggling to integrate AirTran into its system following its 2010 acquisition.

Southwest earned 22 cents per share, up from 8 cents per share in the same period last year. Excluding special items, the profit was 18 cents per share, beating the 16 cents expected by Wall Street analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Revenue climbed 2 per cent to $4.17 billion — just shy of the $4.18 billion that analysts predicted.

The average one-way fare rose 3.1 per cent to $156.96.

Spending on fuel dropped 9.8 per cent from a year ago, offsetting a 7.8 per cent increase in labour costs.

Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said the company posted record earnings for any first quarter despite the weather-related cancellations of more than 7,500 flights. He estimated that winter storms reduced Southwest’s operating profit by $50 million.

Kelly said the second quarter was “off to a great start” with strong bookings and revenue trends plus stable prices for jet fuel.

Shares added 8 cents to $24.16 in morning trading. They began the day up 28 per cent so far this year.

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