AirTran Holdings ( AAI) Tuesday reported a small fourth-quarter profit, beating analysts' expectations in what's been a dreadful quarter for most carriers.

AirTran had net income of $1.1 million, or 1 cent a share, vs. $21.7 million, or 24 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Analysts expected the company to report a loss of 8 cents a share, according to a Thomson First Call survey. Revenue rose 17% to $279.4 million, vs. $238.8 million a year ago.

The Orlando, Fla.-based carrier was able to cut nonfuel operating costs during a time of surging jet fuel prices and fare cuts driven by industry overcapacity. AirTran boarded a record 3.5 million passengers during the quarter.

Revenue passenger miles, or RPMs, a key industry metric, rose 22.6%, almost offsetting a 23.4% increase in capacity, or available seat miles.

AirTran joins low-cost leader Southwest Airlines ( LUV) in reporting a fourth-quarter profit.

Continental Airlines ( CAL), Northwest Airlines ( NWAC), AMR ( AMR), the parent of American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines ( DAL) have all reported large losses for the quarter.

JetBlue ( JBLU) reports quarterly results later this week.

Air Tran shares rose 68 cents, or 9.1%, to $8.18.

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