Southwest Airlines’ first-quarter freight operating revenue increased 5.4 percent, year over year, to $39 million, representing the largest revenue rise among the carrier’s three revenue streams.
Total operating revenue ended the quarter at $4.08 billion, a 2.3-percent, year-over-year rise.
While revenue in all sectors rose, the number of passengers carried fell by 1.4 percent, and load factor declined by 0.2 percent. Trips flown during the first quarter were down by 4.6 percent.
The carrier’s first-quarter net income of $59 million, excluding special items, showed a steep rise from 2012’s loss of $18 million.
First-quarter operating income of $70 million also showed a large year-over-year increase.
“The significant year-over-year improvement in our first quarter results (excluding special items) was driven by record first quarter revenues and a better-than-expected cost performance,” Gary Kelly, Southwest’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.
The carrier has taken delivery of nine new Boeing 737-800s and two used 737-700s while retiring four planes. These deliveries, which will ramp up throughout the year — the company has planned on taking 18 Boeing 747-800s and two 737-700s in total — will help modernize the fleet, but officials anticipate flat capacity growth. According to Kelly, Southwest’s balance sheet and liquidity are strong, and this will help as the carrier continues its integration with AirTran. Officials are targeting an overall goal for 2013 of a 15-percent pre-tax return on invested capital. - Jon Ross