first_imgBy David Koenig THE ASSOCIATED PRESS DALLAS – The summer vacation season was a boon to Southwest Airlines Co. and Continental Airlines Inc., which reported record passenger loads and higher profits despite rising fuel prices. Southwest reported Thursday that its third-quarter profit more than tripled from a year ago. Continental posted higher earnings thanks to heavy traffic on international routes. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.And people are still lining up to fly, even with several rounds of recent fare hikes. United Air Lines made the latest increase, adding $20 per round trip on nearly all its domestic flights, and was quickly matched by Delta Air Lines Inc. and by Continental on some routes. The higher fares don’t seem to be discouraging travel. Weakness in parts of the economy such as housing don’t seem to be having much effect either. Continental executives said advance bookings for travel the rest of the year were ahead of last year’s pace. But the fuel price outlook is much worse than it was just a couple of weeks ago. Oil prices surged again Thursday. Fuel is typically an airline’s second biggest cost, after labor. “Long term, the big concern is the economy, but right now fuel is the monkey on their backs,” said Ray Neidl, an analyst for Calyon Securities. “The airlines would be producing spectacular results if oil weren’t at $90.” Airline stocks fell in response to the latest increase in oil prices. Shares of Continental fell $1.30, or 3.6 percent, to end at $34.93; and Southwest shares lost 23 cents, or 1.6 percent, to close at $14.33 Thursday. Of the airlines that have reported earnings this week, most have been in line with Wall Street expectations, although Continental beat forecasts. Houston-based Continental said it earned $241 million, or $2.15 per share, in the three months that ended Sept. 30. That compared with $237 million, or $2.17 per share, a year earlier, when the company realized a $92million gain on an investment sale. Continental would have earned $2.25 per share after excluding a special charge for a pension plan settlement. Dallas-based Southwest, the nation’s biggest discount carrier, said net income for the third quarter jumped to $162 million, or 22 cents per share, compared with $48 million, or 6 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had expected 21 cents per share. Southwest and several analysts said the airline had hit that target, after excluding one- time charges. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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