Southwest Airlines says traffic, key revenue figure rose in Nov.; calendar may have helped

Southwest Airlines Co. said Monday that a key revenue figure rose between 4 and 5 percent in November thanks to higher traffic than a year earlier.

The airline estimated that the revenue figure will rise by 1 to 2 percent for the full fourth quarter.

U.S. airlines were helped in November by Thanksgiving falling one day earlier this year, which pushed the Sunday after the holiday — always a busy travel day — up from last year, when it fell on Dec. 1. The shift, however, is likely to hurt December results.

Southwest said that travelers flew 6 percent more miles last month than in November 2013. That includes passengers on its AirTran subsidiary.

The company increased capacity by 4 percent, usually by adding flights, and the average plane was 80.1 percent full last month, up from 78.6 percent in November 2013.

With more seats filled, Southwest boosted revenue for each seat flown one mile. That's a closely watched figure in the airline business, and it rises when more seats are sold or average ticket prices rise.

Airlines are increasing flights at a slower rate than demand is rising, which helps boost fares and revenue.

Southwest shares rose 90 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $42.02 in midday trading. Earlier in the session they hit $42.43, 9 cents below the stock's all-time high, which was set Dec. 1.