Air Transport World

Southwest Airlines.(US Majors)

SWA last year became the second-largest US domestic airline in terms of passenger enplanements, according to Dept. of Transportation data, as it carried 74.8 million passengers, just 3.2 million behind Delta Air Lines. And whereas Delta's domestic boardings shrank 6.3%, Southwest enjoyed a 3.1% bulge.

The little airline that could more and more is looking like the little airline that couldn't be stopped, at least not by external factors. It enjoyed its 31st consecutive year of profits in 2003, earning $442 million--$298 million excluding special items--up from earnings of $241 million, or $198 million excluding special items, in 2002. Revenues rose 7.5% to $5.9 billion. And while other airlines gambled that fuel prices would fall in 2004, SWA hedged its bets: 80% of its 2004 fuel needs are capped below $24 per barrel and it is approximately 80% hedged at around $25 per barrel in 2005. …

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