DALLAS (AP) — Southwest Airlines got a small break at the fuel pump during the second quarter, and that helped offset flat revenue and higher labor costs.
The airline paid 16 cents a gallon less for fuel than it did a year ago, and that added up to $88 million.
Southwest said Thursday that its quarterly profit fell 6 percent, but the results were still a bit better than analysts expected.
The airline, which carries more passengers in the U.S. than any other, saw a 2 percent drop in revenue per mile. CEO Gary Kelly said that demand was hurt by automatic federal spending cuts that reduced government travel and by higher taxes, but he said third-quarter trends were encouraging.
The company's revenue per mile — a closely watched figure in the industry — has been about 3 percent higher this month than in July 2012, and bookings for August and September "also look solid," he said.
Southwest officials declined to comment Thursday on the investigation into an accident this week at New York's LaGuardia Airport.
The National Transportation Safety Board is trying to determine why the nose gear of a Southwest Boeing 737 collapsed upon landing Monday night, causing the plane to skid off the runway with its nose on the ground. Several passengers and flight attendants were treated for injuries.
Southwest shares fell during morning trading but recovered to finish up 5 cents at $13.81. They have gained 35 percent for the year, about the same as the Arca index of airline stocks.
The stocks have rallied as investors grow more confident about sustained profits in an industry that lost billions last decade. Mergers have reduced competition, the airlines have curtailed flights to push up fares, and they've added revenue from a flock of fees for various services.
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