NEW YORK (Real Money) -- Southwest Airlines (LUV) is widely considered to be the best operator among the major airline carriers. The company was able to maintain profitability even during the Great Recession. Southwest sports a healthy balance sheet and just raised its dividend by 25%.
Earnings per share have been flying high, having surged from $0.43 in 2011 to $0.56, $1.05 and $1.64 during 2012 through 2014 respectively. Lower jet fuel prices allowed first-quarter 2015 EPS to hit $0.66 vs. $0.22 a year earlier.