US Airways 4th quarter profit doubles as planes are fuller

TEMPE, AZ - US Airways said net income doubled in the fourth quarter as its planes were fuller and it made more money off each passenger.

The airline on Wednesday reported a profit of $37 million, or 22 cents per share, compared with $18 million, or 11 cents per share a year ago. Excluding special items, net income was 26 cents per share, 7 cents higher than analyst forecasts, according to FactSet.

Revenue rose 3.9 percent to $3.28 billon.

Per-seat passenger revenue -- a key performance indicator for airlines -- rose 2.2 percent. Occupancy rose 2 percentage points to 83.9 percent.

US Airways is in merger talks with American Airlines, but didn't address the talks in its earnings release.

Some have assumed that as the fifth-biggest U.S. airline, US Airways needs the American merger to survive. J.P. Morgan analyst Jamie Baker wrote in a note to investors Wednesday that he disagrees.

"With 2012 margins just shy of Delta while topping those of Southwest and United, we find investor stand-alone pessimism to be significantly misplaced," he wrote.

Shares of Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways Group Inc. rose 30 cents, or 2 percent, to $15.15 in morning trading.

For the full year, net income jumped to $637 million, or $3.28 per share -- the largest profit in the airline's history, the company said. In 2011 it earned $71 million, or 44 cents per share. Revenue for 2012 rose almost 6 percent to $13.83 billion.

While United and Delta have been flying about the same or less, US Airways added a little bit of flying last year. Flying capacity rose 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter, and 2 percent for the full year.

"We couldn't be happier with the performance of US Airways in 2012," Chairman and CEO Doug Parker said in a statement.

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