Airlines

Southwest Airlines reports fourth quarter and full year 2023 results

Southwest Airlines Co. today reported its fourth quarter and full year 2023 financial results:

  • Fourth quarter net loss of $219 million, or $0.37 loss per diluted share
  • Fourth quarter net income, excluding special items1, of $233 million, or $0.37 per diluted share
  • Full year net income of $498 million, or $0.81 per diluted share
  • Full year net income, excluding special items1, of $986 million, or $1.57 per diluted share
  • Record fourth quarter and full year operating revenues of $6.8 billion and $26.1 billion, respectively
  • Liquidity2 of $12.5 billion, well in excess of debt outstanding of $8.0 billion

Bob Jordan, President and Chief Executive Officer, stated, “2023 was a year of significant progress. We finished the year a much stronger Company thanks to the efforts of our incredible People.

“We completed a comprehensive winter action plan, restored our network, reached full utilization of our fleet, delivered significant new capabilities for our Customers, and had our best fourth quarter completion factor in more than a decade.

“And, importantly, we have maintained the strength of our investment grade balance sheet, despite the extraordinary challenges over the past few years. Our quarterly performance was at the better end of our expectations and included fourth quarter and full year records for operating revenues and passengers.

“We ratified five labor agreements in 2023, and with the successful ratification of an industry-leading contract for our Pilots, we have now ratified a total of nine agreements in just over a year, providing competitive market compensation packages to our outstanding People.

“I am very proud of our many accomplishments in 2023, but we have not yet delivered on our financial targets.

“As we work urgently to restore our profit margins to historical levels, we believe our 2024 plan provides a line of sight to improve our profitability year-over-year, earn our cost of capital this year, and provide significant progress towards our long-term goal to well exceed our cost of capital.

“Despite inflationary unit cost pressures from new labor agreements and a planned increase in aircraft maintenance, we plan to counter some of those cost pressures through strategic initiatives and already actioned network adjustments, creating operating margin3 expansion, excluding special items, in 2024.

“We also expect to make notable progress regaining efficiencies, with planned headcount at the end of 2024 flat to down year-over-year as we slow hiring to levels below attrition.

“We currently expect to grow our full year 2024 available seat miles roughly 6 percent, year-over-year, all of which is carryover from 2023 network restoration related growth.

“So, there is no net-new additional capacity in 2024. With the restoration of our network behind us, we plan to meter growth and continue to make adjustments, including capacity adjustments if needed, as we work vigorously to hit our financial targets.

“Our 2024 plan leverages a set of initiatives which, most importantly, includes better aligning the route network to new demand patterns.

“While it is early in the first quarter, these initiatives are delivering value and we expect them to contribute roughly $1.5 billion in incremental year-over-year pre-tax profits.

“As a result, we expect double-digit year-over-year operating revenue growth and year-over-year operating margin3 expansion. We expect our current initiatives to continue to deliver beyond 2024, and we are actively working on new initiatives.

“We will be relentless in executing against our plans to drive financial results while enhancing our great Hospitality and delivering a reliable and more efficient operation.”

1Q 2024 Estimation

RASM (a), year-over-year

Up 2.5% to 4.5%

ASMs (b), year-over-year

Up ~10%

Economic fuel costs per gallon1,4

$2.70 to $2.80

Fuel hedging premium expense per gallon

$0.08

Fuel hedging cash settlement gains per gallon

$0.02

ASMs per gallon (fuel efficiency)

79 to 81

CASM-X (c), year-over-year1,5

Up 6% to 7%

Scheduled debt repayments (millions)

~$7

Interest expense (millions)

~$62


 2024 Estimation

ASMs (b), year-over-year

Up ~6%

Economic fuel costs per gallon1,4

$2.55 to $2.65

Fuel hedging premium expense per gallon

$0.07

Fuel hedging cash settlement gains per gallon

$0.01

CASM-X (c), year-over-year1,5

Up 6% to 7%

Scheduled debt repayments (millions)

~$29

Interest expense (millions)

~$249

Aircraft (d)

847

Effective tax rate

23% to 24%

Capital spending (billions)

$3.5 to $4.0

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