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Airline profits have ups and downs

Airlines were relentless in raising fares during the first quarter to pay for sharply higher fuel costs, but some carriers were more successful at it than others, financial results this week showed.

The world's largest airline, United Continental Holdings, said its quarterly revenue climbed 11 percent to $8.2 billion because of higher ticket prices and more extra fees such as those for checked luggage. Yet the carrier's loss widened to $213 million, or 65 cents a share, from a year-ago loss of $183 million, or 58 cents a share.

Airlines have raised their domestic fares at least seven times this year, lifting average ticket prices to their highest point in more than a year. Earlier, the Air Transport Association said the industry's yield, or the average price passengers paid to fly one mile, rose 11.5 percent from a year earlier to 16.75 cents.

Profit at Dallas-based Southwest fell to $5 million in the recent quarter, or a penny a share, from $11 million, also a penny a share, in the year-ago period. Revenue rose 18 percent to $3.1 billion.

Wednesday, American Airlines parent AMR Corp. reported that high fuel costs contributed to a $436 million loss in the first quarter. American will also retire at least 25 MD-80s, which are some of the least-fuel-efficient planes in its fleet.

Elsewhere Thursday, New York-based JetBlue Airways Corp. said it swung to a first-quarter profit of $3 million, or 1 cent a share, from a year-ago loss of $1 million, at which it broke even on a per-share basis. Revenue rose 16 percent to $1.01 billion from $871 million.

For the second quarter, JetBlue said it expects its seat capacity to rise 7 percent to 9 percent from a year ago, with unit costs up 3 percent to 5 percent, excluding fuel. Including fuel, unit costs are expected to increase by 18 percent to 20 percent.

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