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Originally published January 26, 2012 at 7:12 AM | Page modified January 26, 2012 at 10:11 PM

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Alaska Air 4Q profit dips 1% as fuel costs jump; revenue was up

Alaska Air Group said its quarterly profit fell 1 percent to $64 million, missing analysts' forecasts, as fuel costs soared 31 percent.

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Alaska Air Group's fourth-quarter profit dipped, falling below analyst expectations, as fuel costs soared 31 percent.

The Seattle company, which operates Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, paid $3.34 a gallon for fuel in the quarter, up from $2.56 a year earlier.

Alaska Air said Thursday that its profit was $64 million, or $1.76 a share, down 1 percent from $64.8 million, or $1.75 a share, a year earlier.

Excluding gains from fuel-hedging contracts to offset rising fuel prices, the company said it would have earned $1.02 a share. Analysts, who usually exclude one-time items, expected $1.15 a share, according to FactSet.

Revenue rose 9 percent, to $1.04 billion, just below analysts' forecast of $1.05 billion.

Alaska Air was the only one of the six biggest U.S. carriers that have reported earnings that didn't top analysts' forecasts for the quarter, Bloomberg News reported.

Fuel costs rose even with hedging gains, to $285.6 million from $217.7 million.

The company reported a 6.1 percent increase in passenger traffic, measured in miles flown by paying customers. Passengers paid on average 3.3 percent more per mile, but that didn't cover the fuel increase.

Despite slightly higher ticket prices, planes were fuller.

Average occupancy was 84.7 percent, compared with 82.9 percent a year earlier.

For the full year, Alaska Air posted a profit of $244.5 million, or $6.66 a share, compared with $251.1 million, or $6.83 a share, in 2010.

Shares fell $2.73, or 3.6 percent, to $72.71 Thursday, the stock's biggest decline in three months.

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