Allegiant Air 757. Courtesy, State of Hawai‘i Dept. of Transportation

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Company, parent of Allegiant Air, reported earnings of $21.7 million for the first quarter, up 26.5% compared to $17.2 million in the year-ago period.

Total operating revenue increased 23.1% to $237.9 million while expenses climbed 21.9% to $201.5 million, producing an operating profit of $36.3 million, up 30.5% from $27.8 million in the year-ago quarter.

Total ancillary revenue was up 22.9% to $64.3 million, compared to $52.3 million in the year-ago quarter.

Chairman and CEO Maurice Gallagher told reporters and analysts that fuel expenses have continued to be the biggest weight on the company’s profit margins. Aircraft fuel rose 29.3% in the first-quarter to $102.4 million, compared to $79.2 million in the first-quarter of 2011. To offset fuel increases, the company said it has raised fares 6%, has started charging for carry-on bags and has aggressively adjusted capacity.

Scheduled traffic during the quarter rose 19.6% to 1.63 billion RPMs, on a 22% increase in capacity to 1.79 billion ASMs, producing a load factor of 91.1%, down 1.8 points compared to the year-ago quarter. Scheduled service yield rose 5.1% to 9.93 cents. PRASM increased 3.1% to 9.04 cents. CASM ex-fuel was down 3% to 5.17 cents.

“We are focused on the business of performing well, and will adjust accordingly to maintain our profitability and our margins,” Gallagher said.