Southwest traffic, passenger revenue rise in Sept.

By Dow Jones Newswires
Posted Oct. 7, 2010 at 8:59 a.m.

Southwest Airlines Co. reported continued growth in September as a rebound continues in the travel and tourism sector.

Airlines have been posting increasing traffic and record portions of plane seats filled lately, after last year’s deep drop in demand in the recession and resulting capacity cuts.

The discount carrier reported that traffic rose 5.1 percent in September from a year earlier and was up 4.9 percent for the third quarter.

Revenue per available seat-mile, considered the best revenue gauge for airlines, saw estimated growth of 11% in September. The company didn’t give an estimated figure for the quarter.

During September, capacity grew 4.7% while the load factor–a measure of plane fullness–increased to 75% from 74.7%. For the quarter, capacity rose 3.2% and the load factor improved to 80.9% from 79.6%.

The company is poised for further growth on its recently announced deal to acquire AirTran Holdings Inc. (AAI) for $1.4 billion, the first major merger among healthy U.S. discount carriers. The deal allows the company to expand into Atlanta, the largest U.S. market it currently doesn’t serve, and revive stalled efforts to launch international services.

Shares closed Wednesday at $12.94 and were inactive premarket. The stock is up 41% in the past 12 months.

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