Fuller planes help US Airways double profit

US Airways said net income doubled in the fourth quarter as its planes were fuller and it made more money off each passenger.

The airline on Wednesday reported a profit of $37 million, or 22 cents per share, compared with $18 million, or 11 cents per share a year ago. Excluding special items, net income was 26 cents per share, 7 cents higher than analyst forecasts, according to FactSet.

Revenue rose 3.9 percent to $3.28 billon.

Per-seat passenger revenue — a key performance indicator for airlines — rose 2.2 percent. Occupancy rose 2 percentage points to 83.9 percent.

US Airways is in merger talks with American Airlines, but didn’t address the talks in its earnings release.

Some have assumed that as the fifth-biggest U.S. airline, US Airways needs the American merger to survive. J.P. Morgan analyst Jamie Baker wrote in a note to investors Wednesday that he disagrees.

“With 2012 margins just shy of Delta while topping those of Southwest and United, we find investor stand-alone pessimism to be significantly misplaced,” he wrote.

Shares of Tempe-based US Airways Group Inc. rose 30 cents, or 2 percent, to $15.15 in morning trading.

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