(Reuters) - Southwest Airlines Co <LUV.N> reported a 42 percent rise in quarterly profit on Thursday, helped by higher fares, and said demand was solid despite the fragile economy.
The carrier, which acquired discount rival AirTran Holdings last year, reported net income of $228 million, or 30 cents a share, compared with $161 million, or 21 cents a share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, earnings came to 36 cents a share. Analysts on average were expecting 32 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Operating revenue rose nearly 12 percent to $4.62 billion, outpacing an increase of about 6 percent in operating expenses. The average fare rose about 5 percent to $150.31.
Shares of Southwest rose 4 percent to $9.80 in trading before the market opened.
Fuel costs came to $3.22 a gallon in the second quarter, compared with $3.28 a year earlier, Dallas-based Southwest said. For the third quarter, it projected them at $3.05 to $3.10.
U.S. airlines have merged, trimmed unprofitable routes and raised ticket prices to return to stability after the 2008-09 travel downturn. An increase in corporate travel has also buttressed the recovery.
The second quarter is typically one of the strongest for airlines as travel picks up during warm months.
On Wednesday, bankrupt American Airlines parent AMR Corp <AAMRQ.PK> posted a second-quarter profit before items as corporate customer gains helped lead to its highest quarterly revenue ever.
(Reporting by Karen Jacobs; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Gerald E. McCormick)
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