Southwest Airlines eked out a small third-quarter profit in spite of a September slowdown, the company said Thursday. Traffic at all the big airlines fell last month. September is traditionally when vacationers wrap up summer travel by Labor Day, and business travelers get back in the air.
Southwest has been using a mix of fare increases and sales to try to get its prices to a level that travelers will pay. Last month, fares paid by business travelers were soft, CEO Gary Kelly said on CNBC. Business travelers tend to pay more because they usually buy tickets closer to their departure date than vacationers. “Business travelers were there, but it felt like we needed a little bit more aggressive pricing to entice them,” he said.
It’s possible the slowdown is over. Kelly said a key measure of revenue is 4 percent higher this month than in October 2011.
While Southwest rolls out the occasional sale to fill planes – they were 82.1 percent full, a record for the quarter – it has also been aggressive about trying to raise fares in recent months.