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Fri, Jan 25, 2013

Southwest Airlines Reports Increase In Annual Profits

Marks 40th Consecutive Year Of Profitability

Southwest Airlines fourth quarter and full year 2012 results showed a 40th consecutive year of profitability for the airline. Fourth quarter 2012 net income was $78 million, or $.11 per diluted share, which included $13 million (net) of favorable special items.

Gary C. Kelly (pictured), Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer, stated, "2012 was a year of tremendous progress. Our profits (excluding special items) of $417 million grew 26 percent as compared to 2011 and represented our 40th consecutive year of profitability. Without a doubt, this is a remarkable feat and a record unmatched in the airline industry. These solid earnings were achieved despite significant efforts and costs related to critical strategic initiatives. I expect these initiatives to produce substantial returns over the next several years. For 2012, these initiatives contributed to the 49 percent surge in our cash flow from operations to $2.1 billion. We ended the year with fourth quarter profits (excluding special items) of $65 million, which was in line with our year ago performance.

"I was very pleased with our operational performance for the year and our Customer Service delivery. Both were exceptional, especially considering the amount of work involved with our initiatives. I am deeply grateful to all of our People for their extraordinary efforts and a truly remarkable year.

"Our fourth quarter 2012 operating revenues were a fourth quarter record $4.2 billion, bringing full year 2012 operating revenues to more than $17 billion. Our strong fourth quarter 2012 operating revenue performance was driven by record yields, continued high load factors, and an impressive freight revenue performance. As with the full year profits, these strong revenues were achieved despite the transitional state of the AirTran route network. While there was much change in 2012, significant optimization efforts are planned in 2013 for the AirTran network. As we enter 2013, bookings and revenue trends, thus far, suggest a year-over-year improvement in January 2013 passenger unit revenues in the two to three percent range. While the effect of U.S. tax increases on the domestic economy remains uncertain, bookings for the remainder of first quarter, thus far, are strong.

"Our economic fuel costs, including fuel taxes, were $3.32 per gallon for fourth quarter 2012, and $3.28 per gallon for full year 2012, compared to $3.29 per gallon and $3.19 per gallon for the respective year-ago periods. Based on market prices as of January 18 th, our first quarter 2013 economic fuel costs, including fuel taxes, are estimated to be approximately $3.30 per gallon, as compared to $3.44 per gallon for first quarter 2012. While current fuel price levels are very high, the year-over-year decline estimated for first quarter 2013 economic fuel costs is an encouraging trend.

"As expected, our fourth quarter 2012 unit costs, excluding fuel, profitsharing, and special items, increased 5.8 percent, as compared to fourth quarter 2011. While we expect a similar trend in first quarter 2013, year-over-year unit cost inflation, excluding fuel, profitsharing, and special items, is expected to significantly ease for full year 2013 as we complete our Evolve interior cabin retrofits and begin to more fully realize benefits from our fleet modernization efforts.

"While we continue to transform our Company with a bold five-year strategic plan that began in 2011, we remain committed to the pillars of our success—outstanding Customer Service; safe, reliable, and efficient operations; and low costs. We are on track with our plan to fully integrate AirTran into Southwest Airlines by the end of 2014.

"This month, we are on track to begin testing connecting itineraries between the Southwest and AirTran networks in a handful of markets, with significant offerings planned in February and more in March. Once fully implemented in April, we expect the connected networks to contribute incremental revenue in 2013 and provide significant opportunities to optimize the combined network. Our fleet modernization initiatives are on schedule with 259 Southwest 737-700 aircraft retrofitted with our new 143-seat Evolve cabin. We expect to have all 372 of Southwest's 737-700 aircraft retrofitted with Evolve by June and 78 of our 737-300 aircraft retrofitted by the end of 2013. We currently have 34 737-800s in our fleet with plans to grow to 54 this year and 78 next year.

"We have equipped 400 Southwest aircraft with Row 44 WiFi technology, providing our Customers access to satellite-based WiFi and live television. We intend to significantly grow our inflight entertainment offerings in 2013. We are thrilled with the Customer feedback and incremental revenue generated from our All-New Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program that was installed in 2011. Our international reservation system implementation is on track for 2014, and we continue to make great progress on implementing our new revenue management program in 2013. Also, we've announced new 2013 revenue streams: selling open A1 through A15 premium boarding positions and a new service charge for reuse of funds associated with restricted tickets that are not canceled (or changed) prior to departure. Collectively, we expect our strategic initiatives and new revenue streams to contribute the majority of the planned $1.1 billion year-over-year revenue increase in 2013. I am enthused about our 2013 plan and believe our transformation efforts will make us better, stronger, and more competitive.

"Our financial position remains strong with $3 billion in cash and short term investments. We generated $716 million in free cash flow* during 2012, and we expect healthy free cash flow* in 2013. We remain focused on enhancing Shareholder value through capital efficiency and our targeted 15 percent pretax return on invested capital.

"We believe in our strategic plan. And, the outstanding efforts, commitment, and dedication of our People exhibited in 2012 gives me confidence in our ability to successfully execute this plan. The year 2012 was a year of dramatic accomplishments that I believe positions us to be stronger than ever."

AirTran Airways became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company on May 2, 2011. The results discussed here and provided in the accompanying unaudited Condensed Consolidated Financial Statements and Comparative Consolidated Operating Statistics include the results of operations and cash flows for AirTran beginning May 2, 2011, including the impact of purchase accounting.

FMI: www.southwest.com

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