DALLAS (AP) — A key revenue figure for Southwest Airlines Co. soared in December on stronger passenger traffic, a sharp turnaround from November that may have reflected the unusually late Thanksgiving holiday.
Southwest said Wednesday that passenger revenue for every seat flown one mile last month rose between 14 percent and 15 percent from the same month in 2012. In November, the same figure declined 6 percent, and company officials blamed the drop partly on Thanksgiving falling on Nov. 28, meaning that some passengers returned home the following Sunday, Dec. 1.
The results include Southwest's AirTran Airways subsidiary.
The per-mile revenue figure is a closely watched measure of financial performance in the airline business. It rises when average ticket prices increase and when more seats are filled.
Southwest didn't disclose its average December fare, but it reported a 9.8 percent increase in traffic. Paying passengers flew 8.98 billion miles last month on Southwest and AirTran, up from 8.17 billion miles in December 2012.
Passenger-carrying capacity, measured in seats times miles flown, rose 3.4 percent. Since traffic rose faster than Southwest and AirTran added seats, the average flight was 82.8 percent full, up from 78 percent full in December 2012.
For all of 2013, traffic on Southwest and AirTran rose 1.4 percent, capacity was increased by 1.7 percent, and average occupancy dipped to 80.1 percent from 80.3 percent in 2012.
Shares of Dallas-based Southwest, the nation's fourth-biggest airline, rose 31 cents to $19.84 in afternoon trading. At the beginning of the day's session, they had gained 77 percent in the past 12 months.