Southwest Airlines reports better-than-expected earnings, revenue despite 737 Max jet grounding

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Southwest Airlines first-quarter profit and revenue were better than expected despite the prolonged grounding of the Boeing 737 Max jets that forced it to cancel more than 10,000 flights during the quarter, the company said Thursday.

The carrier, which has 34 of the 737 Max jets, extended cancellations through Aug. 5. The Max comprises less than 5% of its fleet.

Here’s what the airline reported, versus average analysts estimates compiled by Refinitiv:

  • Adjusted earnings: 70 cents vs 61 cents per share forecast by Refinitiv
  • Revenue: 5.15 billion vs $5.12 billion forecast by Refinitiv

Southwest estimates that the impact of flight cancellations, the U.S. government shutdown and softness in leisure revenue trends reduced first quarter 2019 net income by approximately $150 million.

The 737 Max has been grounded since mid-March after the jet’s anti-stall software was implicated in two fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia.

Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly described the results as “solid” despite several challenges throughout the quarter.

“I am especially proud of our nearly 60,000 Employees for the commendable job under operationally difficult circumstances,” he said in a statement announcing the earnings.

Southwest shares were up 1.5 percent Thursday before the market open.

Raymond James downgraded Southwest stock and lowered its earnings projections in April, citing the Max groundings.

It’s unclear when the Max will return. Boeing, which expects a hit of more than $1 billion from the grounding, said it’s completed 96 flights totaling over 159 hours of air time with the new Max software fix.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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