DALLAS ( TheStreet) -- Southwest ( LUV) said net income rose 55% and current bookings continue to be strong.

Southwest said capacity will grow 5% to 6% in the current year when it will take delivery of 19 Boeing 737-700s.

Excluding items, Southwest earned $115 million, or 15 cents a share, in line with estimates. Revenue rose 14.8% to $3.1 billion, a record for the fourth quarter and also in line with estimates. In the same period a year earlier, excluding items, the carrier earned $74 million, or 10 cents a share.

Including items primarily related to fuel hedging, Southwest earned $131 million, or 18 cents a share, compared with $116 million, or 16 cents a share, a year earlier.

"December passenger unit revenues increased approximately 5% year over year," said CEO Gary Kelly, in a prepared statement. "Thus far in January, booking and revenue trends suggest similar year-over-year improvement in January vs. December 2010. Bookings in place for the remainder of the first quarter also are strong."

During the quarter, passenger revenue per available seat mile rose 5%. On the cost side, excluding fuel and special items, cost per available seat mile rose 5.8%. Fuel costs included $14 million in unfavorable cash settlements related to fuel derivative contracts.

For the full year 2010, net income was $459 million, or 61 cents a share, compared to $99 million, or 13 cents a share, in 2009. Excluding special items for both years, 2010 net income was $550 million, or 74 cents a share, compared with$143 million, or 19 cents a share, in 2009.

"We emerged from the worst decade in aviation history without losses, without furloughs, and without degradation of our customer experience," Kelly said. "And 2010 marked our 38th consecutive year of profitability, a tremendous feat unmatched in the aviation industry."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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