New York
CNN Business

Southwest Airlines posted a first-quarter loss, but the company said that will be the last time it loses money for a while.

The airline had gone more than 11 years without a money-losing quarter and 47 straight years of annual profits before the pandemic. But Southwest said that it made money in March, and that it expects to make money the rest of this year.

It’s another sign that the massive, unprecedented losses across the US airline industry caused by the pandemic are finally over, even if the pandemic itself is not yet concluded.

Southwest reported a $191 million loss in the first quarter, far less than the $1 billion loss it posted in the first quarter of 2021. It posted $4.7 billion in sales – more than double what Southwest brought in a year ago, also roughly in line with forecasts. But that was still about 9% below the revenue Southwest brought in during the first quarter of 2019, before the pandemic started.

Sales were also slightly lower than the fourth quarter of 2021, when the company posted a modest profit. The first quarter is traditionally the period with the least US air travel, and the fourth quarter is one of the busiest. This year’s first-quarter results were also hurt by the surge in Covid cases early in the year caused by the Omicron variant, and a rise in fuel prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But Southwest is less affected than its rivals by the rising fuel prices. It has long-term fuel purchase contracts that partly protect it from price spikes. It paid an average of $2.30 a gallon for jet fuel in the period, while American

(AAL)
, United

(UAL)
and Delta

(DAL)
airlines paid between $2.79 to $2.88 a gallon in the same period. Southwest said it expects its fuel contracts to be worth about $1.4 billion in the second quarter, given current pricing expectations.

Shares of Southwest

(LUV)
gained 3% in premarket trading.

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