Despite Fuel Costs Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Report Increased Traffic and Make a Profit

Southwest Airlines reported passenger traffic increased 9.8 percent for the month of March. The percentage of available seats filled by passengers for the month improved 0.6 percentage points from last year.

The number of those available seats increased by 8.9 percent as Southwest expands its operations.

Both Southwest and JetBlue are hiring new pilots as they increase their capacity to carry more passengers.

For the first quarter of 2011, Southwest’s passenger traffic rose 11.9 percent and the number of seats available increased 8.3 percent, while the number of those seats that were filled with passengers improved 2.4 percent points to 78.3 percent.

JetBlue Airways reported a 7.1% increase in passenger traffic in March 2011, compared to the same time period last year. On a year-over-year basis, capacity (or, available seat miles) grew 4.2% and load factor (percentage of seats filled with passengers) rose to 83.6% from 81.3% in March 2010.

JetBlue said Thursday that it squeezed out a small profit in the first quarter as higher fares and improving traffic countered the rising price of jet fuel. Revenue rose 16 percent a year ago.

JetBlue is well positioned for growth due to its low cost, fuel hedging program and a nonunionized workforce. Management expects 2011 to be a profitable year based on an improving revenue environment and continues to focus on achieving long-term sustainable growth.

Southwest Airlines says it made money in the first quarter despite higher fuel prices. Southwest said Thursday it earned $5 million. Spending on fuel jumped 26 percent from a year ago, to more than $1 billion, surpassing labor as the airline’s biggest cost.

Southwest is doing a better job than competitors at overcoming high fuel prices with a combination of more passengers and fare increases. Just this week, Southwest joined other airlines in raising most U.S. prices by $10 per round trip.