Southwest reports a net profit of $277 million in the third quarter, updates its fleet plans

Southwest Airlines Company today reported its third quarter 2022 financial results:

  • Net income of $277 million, or $0.44 per diluted share
  • Net income, excluding special items1, of $316 million, or $0.50 per diluted share
  • Record third quarter operating revenues of $6.2 billion
  • Liquidity2 of $14.7 billion, well in excess of debt outstanding of $8.7 billion

Bob Jordan, Chief Executive Officer, stated, “We are pleased to report solid third quarter 2022 profits and record third quarter operating revenues. Following record summer leisure travel demand, revenue trends remained strong in September 2022, bolstered by improving business travel trends post-Labor Day. Leisure and business demand remains strong, and we currently expect revenue trends to improve sequentially from third quarter to fourth quarter 2022, despite lower capacity. Our fuel hedging strategy continues to provide protection against persistently high jet fuel prices, and we are 61 percent hedged in fourth quarter 2022 and 50 percent hedged in full year 2023. We continue to execute well against our full year 2022 non-fuel cost guidance, despite cost headwinds due to operating at suboptimal productivity levels and significant inflationary cost pressures. We remain focused on maintaining our current momentum and expect to generate strong profits and margins in fourth quarter 2022, based on current trends and barring any significant unforeseen events.

“Our thoughts remain with those impacted by Hurricane Ian. We quickly resumed full service to all affected airports with the exception of Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, which is currently expected to operate a reduced flight schedule through at least the end of this year.

“I am grateful to our Employees for their continued focus on Teamwork, Customer Service, and operational execution. I am very pleased that we were able to reward our Aircraft Appearance Technicians—represented by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA)—through a new five-year agreement, which was ratified earlier this month and provides immediate and future compensation increases for nearly 170 Employees. Additionally, we recently reached a tentative agreement with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), who represent our Customer Service Agents, Customer Representatives, and Source of Support Representatives. The tentative agreement requires membership ratification and, if ratified, provides immediate and future compensation increases for more than 8,000 Employees. It remains a high priority to reach agreements on all of our open Labor contracts and reward our superb Employees with wage increases as soon as possible.

“We continue working with The Boeing Company (Boeing) to finalize our 2023 aircraft delivery plans; however, we currently expect aircraft delivery delays to persist into 2024. Today, we extended our flight schedule through July 10, 2023, and we currently expect first quarter 2023 capacity to increase approximately 10 percent and second quarter 2023 capacity to increase approximately 14 percent, both year-over-year. While we have not yet finalized capacity plans for second half 2023, and there is uncertainty around the timing of aircraft deliveries, we are building our 2023 capacity plan with a goal to have sufficient aircraft to operate our 2023 flight schedules, as originally published, in an effort to enhance operational reliability. We plan to allocate the vast majority of new 2023 capacity to network restoration and stronghold Southwest markets, which we consider to be lower-risk growth. We currently expect our route network to be approximately 90 percent restored by summer 2023, and fully restored by December 2023, compared with 2019 flight levels in pre-pandemic markets.

“We continue to estimate full year 2023 operating expenses per available seat mile, excluding fuel and oil expense, special items, and profitsharing3 (CASM-X) to decrease compared with full year 2022, which includes estimated wage rate accruals for all workgroups beginning April 1, 2022 and forward. Fleet utilization is expected to be limited by Pilot staffing constraints for the majority of 2023, resulting in continued cost headwinds due to operating at suboptimal productivity levels until we are able to optimize staffing with our fleet—which is foundational to our plan to improve operating leverage. Due to operating at suboptimal productivity levels and ongoing inflationary cost pressures, first half 2023 CASM-X3 is currently expected to be in the range of flat to up two percent compared with first half 2022. We currently expect our year-over-year capacity growth rate in second half 2023 to accelerate relative to our year-over-year capacity growth rate in first half 2023. As such, second half 2023 CASM-X3 is currently expected to decrease in the low-to-mid single digit range compared with second half 2022.

“As we finalize our plan for next year, we remain laser-focused on our goals to grow full year 2023 profits and margins, excluding special items, year-over-year4, and to generate healthy returns on invested capital for our Shareholders.”

Guidance and Outlook:

The following tables introduce or update selected financial guidance for fourth quarter 2022 and full year 2022, as applicable:

4Q 2022 Estimation

Operating revenue compared with 2019 (a)

Up 13% to 17%

ASMs compared with 2019 (b)

Down ~2%

Economic fuel costs per gallon1,5

$3.15 to $3.25

Fuel hedging premium expense per gallon

$0.03

Fuel hedging cash settlement gains per gallon

$0.37

ASMs per gallon (fuel efficiency)

77 to 79

CASM-X compared with 20193

Up 14% to 18%

Scheduled debt repayments (millions)

~$320

Interest expense (millions)

~$70

 

 2022 Estimation

Previous estimation

ASMs compared with 2019 (b)

Down ~4.5%

Down ~4%

Economic fuel costs per gallon1,5

$3.05 to $3.15

$2.95 to $3.05

Fuel hedging premium expense per gallon

$0.04

No change

Fuel hedging cash settlement gains per gallon

$0.50

$0.51

CASM-X compared with 20193

Up 14% to 15%

Up 12% to 16%

Scheduled debt repayments

~$2.6 billion

~$820 million

Interest expense (millions)

~$340

~$360

Aircraft (c)

768

765

Effective tax rate

24% to 26%

No change

Capital spending (billions) (d)

~$4.0

No change

(a) The Company believes that operating revenues compared with 2019 is a relevant measure of performance due to the significant impacts in 2020 and 2021 from the pandemic.

(b) Available seat miles (ASMs, or capacity). The Company’s flight schedule is currently published for sale through July 10, 2023. The Company’s fourth quarter 2022 guidance declined slightly from its previous estimation of down one percent to two percent, compared with fourth quarter 2019, primarily due to flight cancellations from the impact of Hurricane Ian. The Company continues to expect first quarter 2023 capacity to be up approximately 10 percent, compared with first quarter 2022, and currently expects second quarter 2023 capacity to be up approximately 14 percent, compared with second quarter 2022.

(c) Aircraft on property, end of period. The Company ended third quarter 2022 with 742 Boeing 737 aircraft. During fourth quarter 2022, the Company continues to expect 31 Boeing 737 MAX 8 (-8) aircraft deliveries. The Company now expects to retire 26 Boeing 737-700 (-700) aircraft in 2022, including 5 -700 retirements in fourth quarter 2022, compared with its previous guidance of 29 -700 retirements this year. As a result, the Company now expects to end the year with 768 aircraft, compared with its previous guidance of 765 aircraft. The delivery schedule for the Boeing 737 MAX 7 (-7) is dependent on the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) issuing required certifications and approvals to Boeing and the Company. The FAA will ultimately determine the timing of the -7 certification and entry into service, and the Company therefore offers no assurances that current estimations and timelines are correct. Furthermore, given the current ongoing status of the -7 certification and pace of expected deliveries for the remainder of this year, it is the Company’s assumption that it will receive no -7 aircraft deliveries in 2022, and that the remaining 48 MAX aircraft reflected in its 2022 contractual order book will shift out of 2022.

(d) Represents the Company’s current expectation which assumes a total of 66 -8 aircraft deliveries in 2022. The Company continues to estimate $900 million in non-aircraft capital spending in 2022.

 

Revenue Results and Outlook:

  • Record third quarter 2022 operating revenues of $6.2 billion, a 10.3 percent increase compared with third quarter 2019—in line with the Company’s previous guidance
  • Third quarter 2022 operating revenues per available seat mile (RASM, or unit revenues) increased 10.6 percent driven primarily by a passenger yield increase of 5.3 percent, coupled with a load factor increase of 1.9 points, all compared with third quarter 2019
  • Third quarter 2022 managed business revenues were down 28 percent compared with third quarter 2019—in line with the Company’s previous guidance

The Company’s revenue performance in third quarter 2022 was strong, despite a negative impact of approximately $18 million due to the flight disruptions caused by Hurricane Ian in late September 2022. This negative impact in third quarter 2022 was more than offset by improving leisure demand and close-in bookings in September 2022. In addition, the Company’s third quarter 2022 operating revenues benefited from its loyalty program, including elevated point redemptions for flights and incremental revenue from its co-brand credit card agreement, as well as increased Upgraded Boarding take-rates following the new digital self-service launch in August 2022.

As anticipated, the Company’s third quarter 2022 operating revenues included a two point sequential operating revenue growth headwind from second quarter to third quarter 2022, compared with their respective 2019 levels, due to the increase in short-haul trips in business markets in an effort to support the reliability of its operational performance and expected business travel demand. While third quarter 2022 managed business revenues remained below 2019 levels, and softened in July and August compared with June 2022, the Company experienced sequential improvement from August to September, with September 2022 managed business revenues down 25 percent compared with September 2019 levels. Also, as anticipated, the Company’s third quarter 2022 operating revenues included a five point sequential operating revenue growth headwind from second quarter to third quarter 2022, compared with their respective 2019 levels, due to a shift in the timing of recognition of breakage revenue associated with the Company’s July 2022 policy change to eliminate expiration dates on qualifying flight credits6. The Company does not expect a material impact on fourth quarter 2022 operating revenues from either the increase in short-haul trips or its policy change to eliminate expiration dates on qualifying flight credits.

Thus far, the Company continues to experience strong leisure and business revenue trends and strong bookings in fourth quarter 2022, including the holiday time periods, despite an estimated negative impact caused by Hurricane Ian of approximately $10 million. Based on current trends, fourth quarter 2022 operating revenues are expected to accelerate compared with third quarter 2022, both nominally and compared with their respective 2019 levels, and fourth quarter 2022 managed business revenues are estimated to be down in the range of 20 percent to 25 percent, compared with fourth quarter 2019.

Fuel Costs and Outlook:

  • Third quarter 2022 fuel costs were $3.34 per gallon1—in line with the Company’s previous guidance—and included $0.02 per gallon in premium expense and $0.43 per gallon in favorable cash settlements from fuel derivative contracts
  • Third quarter 2022 fuel efficiency improved 1.5 percent compared with third quarter 2019 due to more MAX aircraft, the Company’s most fuel-efficient aircraft, as a percentage of its fleet
  • As of October 19, 2022, the fair market value of the Company’s fuel derivative contracts settling in fourth quarter 2022 through the end of 2024 was an asset of $685 million

The Company’s multi-year fuel hedging program continues to provide insurance against spikes in energy prices and significantly offset the market price increase in jet fuel in third quarter 2022. The Company’s current fuel derivative contracts contain a combination of instruments based in West Texas Intermediate, Brent crude oil, and refined products, such as heating oil. The economic fuel price per gallon sensitivities5 provided in the table below assume the relationship between Brent crude oil and refined products based on market prices as of October 19, 2022.

Estimated economic fuel price per gallon,
including taxes and fuel hedging premiums

Average Brent Crude Oil
price per barrel

4Q 2022

$70

$2.65 – $2.75

$80

$2.90 – $3.00

Current Market (a)

$3.15 – $3.25

$100

$3.35 – $3.45

$110

$3.60 – $3.70

$120

$3.90 – $4.00

Fair market value

$189 million

Estimated premium costs

$13 million

(a) Brent crude oil average market price as of October 19, 2022, was $91 per barrel for fourth quarter 2022.

 

In addition, the Company is providing its maximum percentage of estimated fuel consumption7 covered by fuel derivative contracts in the following table:

Period   

Maximum fuel hedged percentage (a)

2022

63 %

2023

50 %

2024

15 %

(a) Based on the Company’s current available seat mile plans. The Company is currently 61 percent hedged for fourth quarter 2022.

 

Non-Fuel Costs and Outlook:

  • Third quarter 2022 operating expenses of $5.8 billion increased 20.9 percent compared with third quarter 2019
  • Third quarter 2022 operating expenses, excluding fuel and oil expense, special items, and profitsharing, increased 11.9 percent compared with third quarter 2019
  • Third quarter 2022 CASM-X increased 12.2 percent compared with third quarter 2019—in line with the Company’s previous guidance
  • The Company accrued $57 million of profitsharing expense in third quarter 2022, bringing year-to-date profitsharing expense to $175 million as of September 30, 2022

The Company’s third quarter 2022 CASM-X increase, compared with third quarter 2019, was primarily due to continued cost headwinds from operating at suboptimal productivity levels, inflationary cost pressures, and accruals for expected future contractual wage rate increases. However, the Company’s third quarter 2022 CASM-X increase was on the lower end of its previous guidance range primarily due to lower than anticipated healthcare and benefits costs, as well as favorable airport settlements received during third quarter 2022, which the Company previously expected to receive in fourth quarter 2022.

The Company continues to experience inflationary cost pressures in fourth quarter 2022, in particular with higher rates for labor, benefits, and airports. Fourth quarter 2022 costs are also pressured by the shifting of favorable airport settlements into third quarter 2022, as well as increased cost headwinds due to operating at suboptimal productivity levels. Headcount is expected to increase further in fourth quarter 2022 to support plans for network restoration in 2023, while capacity levels are expected to decline seasonally in fourth quarter 2022 compared with third quarter 2022, relative to their respective 2019 levels. The Company remains on track with its goal this year to add more than 10,000 new Employees, net of attrition.

Third quarter 2022 net interest expense, which is included in Other expenses, decreased $99 million, year-over-year, primarily due to a $68 millionyear-over-year increase in interest income driven primarily by higher interest rates, coupled with a $29 million year-over-year decrease in interest expense primarily due to various debt repurchases throughout 2022, as well as elimination of the debt discount as a result of the Company’s adoption of Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2020-06, Debt—Debt with Conversion and Other Options (Subtopic 470-20) and Derivatives and Hedging—Contracts in Entity’s Own Equity (Subtopic 815-40): Accounting for Convertible Instruments and Contracts in an Entity’s Own Equity.

Fleet and Capital Spending:

The Company received 23 -8 aircraft during third quarter 2022, as expected, for a year-to-date total of 35 -8 aircraft deliveries received as of September 30, 2022. The Company ended third quarter 2022 with 742 aircraft, which reflects 11 -700 aircraft retirements during the quarter.

While the Company remains contractually scheduled to receive 114 MAX deliveries this year, the Company continues to expect a portion of its deliveries to shift out of 2022 due to Boeing’s supply chain challenges and the current status of the -7 certification.

Based on continued discussions with Boeing regarding the pace of expected deliveries for the remainder of this year, the Company continues to estimate it will receive a total of 66 -8 aircraft deliveries in 2022, including 31 -8 deliveries in fourth quarter 2022, and no -7 deliveries in 2022.

The Company now expects to retire 26 -700 aircraft in 2022, including 5 -700 retirements in fourth quarter 2022, compared with its previous guidance of 29 -700 retirements. As a result, the Company now expects to end the year with 768 aircraft, compared with its previous guidance of 765 aircraft.

The Company’s third quarter 2022 capital expenditures were $1.1 billion driven primarily by aircraft-related capital spending, as well as technology, facilities, and operational investments. The Company continues to estimate its 2022 capital spending to be approximately $4.0 billion, which assumes a total of 66 -8 aircraft deliveries in 2022. The Company’s 2022 capital spending guidance continues to include approximately $900 million in non-aircraft capital spending.

Since the Company’s previous disclosure on July 28, 2022, the Company exercised the remaining five -8 options for delivery in 2022 and exercised the remaining four -7 options for delivery in 2023. Additionally in October 2022, the Company converted 17 2023 -7 firm orders to -8 firm orders; exercised three -7 options for delivery in 2024; accelerated 15 -7 firm orders from 2030 into 2026; and accelerated 10 -8 firm orders from 2031 into 2030. The following tables provide further information regarding the Company’s contractual order book and compare its contractual order book as of October 27, 2022, with its previous order book as of July 28, 2022. Given current supply chain and aircraft delivery delays, the Company will continue working with Boeing to solidify future delivery dates.

Current 737 Contractual Order Book as of October 27, 2022:

 

The Boeing Company

-7 Firm Orders

-8 Firm Orders

-7 or -8 Options

Total

2022

14

100

114

(c)

2023

25

65

90

2024

33

53

86

2025

30

56

86

2026

30

15

40

85

2027

15

15

6

36

2028

15

15

30

2029

20

30

50

2030

55

55

2031

182

(a)

295

(b)

155

632

(a) The delivery timing for the -7 is dependent on the FAA issuing required certifications and approvals to Boeing and the Company. The FAA will ultimately determine the timing of the -7 certification and entry into service, and the Company therefore offers no assurances that current estimations and timelines are correct.

(b) The Company has flexibility to designate firm orders or options as -7s or -8s, upon written advance notification as stated in the contract.

(c) Includes 35 -8 deliveries received through September 30, 2022 and 31 expected -8 deliveries in fourth quarter 2022, for a total of 66 -8 deliveries in 2022. Thus far, the Company has received a total of 40 -8 deliveries in 2022. While the Company is contractually scheduled to receive 114 MAX deliveries, including options, this year, a portion of its deliveries are expected to shift out of 2022 due to Boeing’s supply chain challenges and the current status of the -7 certification. Furthermore, given the current ongoing status of the -7 certification and pace of expected deliveries for the remainder of this year, it is the Company’s assumption that it will receive no -7 aircraft deliveries in 2022, and has the ability to convert -7s to -8s as noted in footnote (b).

Previous 737 Contractual Order Book as of July 28, 2022 (a): 

 

The Boeing Company

-7 Firm Orders

-8 Firm Orders

-7 or -8 Options

Total

2022

14

95

5

114

2023

38

48

4

90

2024

30

56

86

2025

30

56

86

2026

15

15

40

70

2027

15

15

6

36

2028

15

15

30

2029

20

30

50

2030

15

45

60

2031

10

10

192

273

167

632

(a) The ‘Previous 737 Contractual Order Book’ is for reference and comparative purposes only. It should no longer be relied upon. See ‘Current 737 Contractual Order Book’ for the Company’s current aircraft order book.

 

Liquidity and Capital Deployment:

  • The Company ended third quarter 2022 with $13.7 billion in cash and short-term investments and a fully available revolving credit line of $1.0 billion
  • The Company had a net cash position8 of $5.0 billion, and adjusted debt9 to invested capital (leverage) of 48 percent as of September 30, 2022
  • The Company paid $1.9 billion during third quarter 2022 to retire debt and finance lease obligations, including the redemption of the outstanding $1.2 billion principal amount of all of its outstanding 4.750% Notes due 2023; the extinguishment of $184 million in principal of the Company’s convertible notes for a cash payment of $239 million; the extinguishment of $373 million in principal of various other unsecured notes for a cash payment of $383 million; and $54 million in scheduled debt payments
  • The Company’s 2022 total debt repayments is expected to be $2.6 billion, compared with its previous guidance of $820 million, due to the unscheduled extinguishments noted above

Top Copyright Photo: Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-8 MAX 8 N8788L (msn 67777) BFI (Nick Dean). Image: 959129.

Southwest aircraft slide show: