Southwest Airlines: expensive fuel reroutes flights

By Margarita Snegireva. Southwest Airlines Co., one of the most profitable airlines in the world, is paring service on dozens of routes to shift flights to more lucrative markets as the once fast-growing airline copes with a slowing economy and higher fuel prices.

The realignment underscores the increasing pressure on an industry struggling to remain profitable amid more challenging conditions. Higher oil prices are driving up jet-fuel bills and passenger demand for air travel is starting to weaken. Last month, Southwest filled 68.2% of its seats, down from 68.9% a year earlier.

Southwest will eliminate 17 round trips from its schedule starting May 10 by reducing some flights in dozens of markets such as Chicago-Las Vegas and Baltimore-Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The airline will shift 40 round trips to other markets, with a particularly strong push in Denver , where business has been "amazing" since it started two years ago, a Southwest spokeswoman said.

Southwest Airlines Co. is an American low-fare airline based in Dallas, Texas, with its largest focus city at Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport. It is the largest airline in the United States by number of passengers carried domestically per year and the second largest airline in the world by number of passengers carried.It is also the 6th largest U.S. airline by revene. It also maintains the fourth-largest fleet of aircraft among all of the world's commercial airlines.

Southwest Airlines has carried more customers than any other U.S. airline since August 2006 for combined domestic and international passengers according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. outhwest Airlines is one of the world's most profitable airlines and in January 2007, posted a profit for the 34th consecutive year.

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