A plunge in first-quarter profit to $34 million from the $93 million earned in the first three months of 2006 revealed both the strength of Southwest Airlines' business model and the weakness of the environment in which it now operates, as even the US's most consistently profitable airline is struggling with soaring fuel costs. Excluding special items largely related to SWA's hedging program and settlements from derivative contracts, first-quarter net income rose 30.3% year-over-year to $43 ...

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