That was helpful because the second-largest expense, labor, rose 6.9 percent to $1.27 billion. The company blamed contract raises for union workers and higher health insurance costs.
The third quarter includes the last two months of the busy summer travel season, so it's a strong period for airlines. Even with higher fares than last year, Southwest was able to fill 80.8 percent of its seats, although that was down from 82.1 percent in summer 2012.
When summer vacations end, travel drops off, but Southwest is hinting at a busy holiday season. Officials said the recent partial government shutdown cost Southwest $20 million in October, but they said that bookings for November and December were strong.
Kelly called the third-quarter results "very solid," and said that his airline — once known as a scrappy underdog to the giants, but now the fourth-biggest U.S. carrier — was transforming itself for the future.
Southwest is converting more AirTran Airways flights to its own colors and brand, and expects to fully absorb AirTran by the end of 2014. The conversion includes using Southwest planes on international flights beginning next year.
Follow David Koenig at http://www.twitter.com/airlinewriter
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