Performance

Another Year of Strong Profits

2017 was another outstanding year of financial and operational performance for Southwest. Our loyal Customers chose Southwest’s low fares more than any other airline, maintaining our position as the largest carrier in the United States55) As measured by the U.S. DOT’s O&D Survey for the 12 months ended Dec. 31, 2017 based on domestic originating passengers. O&D stands for Origin and Destination. and driving record revenues. Net income in 2017 was a record $3.5 billion, an increase of 55.4 percent, year-over-year. The increase was driven primarily by a $1.4 billion reduction in our income tax provision in order to revalue our deferred tax liability related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts legislation enacted in 2017. As one of the only domestic airlines paying cash taxes in one of the most heavily taxed industries in the United States, Southwest applauded Congress and the President for the passage of tax reform legislation. Excluding this and other special items,33) The Company's Consolidated Financial Statements are prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States ("GAAP"). These GAAP financial statements include (i) unrealized noncash adjustments and reclassifications, which can be significant, as a result of accounting requirements and elections made under accounting pronouncements relating to derivative instruments and hedging and (ii) other charges and benefits the Company believes are unusual and/or infrequent in nature and thus may make comparisons to its prior or future performance difficult.

As a result, the Company also provides financial information in this report that was not prepared in accordance with GAAP and should not be considered as an alternative to the information prepared in accordance with GAAP. The Company provides supplemental non-GAAP financial information (also referred to as "excluding special items"), including results that it refers to as "economic," which the Company's management utilizes to evaluate its ongoing financial performance and the Company believes provides additional insight to investors as supplemental information to its GAAP results. The non-GAAP measures provided that relate to the Company’s performance on an economic fuel cost basis include Fuel and oil expense, non-GAAP; Total operating expenses, non-GAAP; Operating income, non-GAAP; Net income, non-GAAP; and Net income per share, diluted, non-GAAP. The Company's economic Fuel and oil expense results differ from GAAP results in that they only include the actual cash settlements from fuel hedge contracts - all reflected within Fuel and oil expense in the period of settlement. Thus, Fuel and oil expense on an economic basis has historically been utilized by the Company, as well as some of the other airlines that utilize fuel hedging, as it reflects the Company’s actual net cash outlays for fuel during the applicable period, inclusive of settled fuel derivative contracts. Any net premium costs paid related to option contracts are reflected as a component of Other (gains) losses, net, for both GAAP and non-GAAP (including economic) purposes in the period of contract settlement. The Company believes these economic results provide further insight on the impact of the Company's fuel hedges on its operating performance and liquidity since they exclude the unrealized, noncash adjustments and reclassifications that are recorded in GAAP results in accordance with accounting guidance relating to derivative instruments, and they reflect all cash settlements related to fuel derivative contracts within Fuel and oil expense. This enables the Company's management, as well as investors and analysts, to consistently assess the Company's operating performance on a year-over-year or quarter-over-quarter basis after considering all efforts in place to manage fuel expense. However, because these measures are not determined in accordance with GAAP, such measures are susceptible to varying calculations, and not all companies calculate the measures in the same manner. As a result, the aforementioned measures, as presented, may not be directly comparable to similarly titled measures presented by other companies.

The Company’s GAAP results in the applicable periods include other charges or benefits that are also deemed “special items" that the Company believes make its results difficult to compare to prior periods, anticipated future periods, or industry trends. Financial measures identified as non-GAAP (or as excluding special items) have been adjusted to exclude special items. Special items include:

1) A one-time $172 million Special revenue adjustment in July 2015 as a result of the Agreement with Chase and the resulting required change in accounting methodology. This increase to revenue represented a nonrecurring required acceleration of revenues associated with the adoption of Accounting Standards Update 2009-13;
2) Contract ratification bonuses recorded for certain workgroups. As the bonuses would only be paid at ratification of the associated tentative agreement and would not represent an ongoing expense to the Company, management believes its results for the associated periods are more usefully compared if the impacts of ratification bonus amounts are excluded from results. Generally, union contract agreements cover a specified three- to five- year period, although such contracts officially never expire, and the agreed upon terms remain in place until a revised agreement is reached, which can be several years following the amendable date;
3) Expenses associated with the Company’s acquisition and integration of AirTran Holdings, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including AirTran Airways, Inc. (collectively, “AirTran”). Such expenses were primarily incurred during the acquisition and integration period of the two companies from 2011 through 2015 as a result of the Company’s acquisition of AirTran, which closed on May 2, 2011. The exclusion of these expenses provides investors with a more applicable basis with which to compare results in future periods now that the integration process has been completed;
4) A gain resulting from a litigation settlement received in January 2015. This cash settlement meaningfully lowered Other operating expenses during the applicable period and the Company does not expect a similar impact on its cost structure in the future;
5) A noncash impairment charge related to leased slots 33 at Newark Liberty International Airport as a result of the Federal Aviation Administration announcement in April 2016 that this airport was being changed to a Level 2 schedule-facilitated airport from its previous designation as Level 3;
6) Lease termination costs recorded as a result of the Company acquiring 13 of its Boeing 737-300 aircraft off operating leases as part of the Company’s strategic effort to remove its Classic aircraft from operations on or before Sept. 29, 2017, in the most economically advantageous manner possible. The Company had not budgeted for these early lease termination costs, as they were subject to negotiations being concluded with the third party lessors. The Company recorded the fair value of the aircraft acquired off operating leases, as well as any associated remaining obligations to the balance sheet as debt;
7) An Aircraft grounding charge recorded in third quarter 2017, as a result of the Company grounding its remaining Boeing 737-300 aircraft on Sept. 29, 2017. The loss was a result of the remaining net lease payments due and certain lease return requirements that could have to be performed on these leased aircraft prior to their return to the lessors as of the cease-use date. The Company had not budgeted for the lease return requirements, as they are subject to negotiation with third party lessors; and
8) An adjustment to Provision for income taxes related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act legislation enacted in December 2017, which resulted in a re-measurement of the Company's deferred tax assets and liabilities at the new federal corporate tax rate of 21 percent. This adjustment is a non-cash item and is being treated as a special item.

Because management believes each of these items can distort the trends associated with the Company’s ongoing performance as an airline, the Company believes that evaluation of its financial performance can be enhanced by a supplemental presentation of results that exclude the impact of these items in order to enhance consistency and comparativeness with results in prior periods that do not include such items and as a basis for evaluating operating results in future periods. The following measures are often provided, excluding special items, and utilized by the Company’s management, analysts, and investors to enhance comparability of year-over-year results, as well as to industry trends: Total operating expenses, non-GAAP; Operating income, non-GAAP; Provision for income taxes, non-GAAP; Net income, non-GAAP; Net income per share, diluted, non-GAAP; and Operating expenses per ASM, non-GAAP, excluding profitsharing expense, Fuel and oil expense, and special items.

The Company has also provided free cash flow, which is a non-GAAP financial measure. The Company believes free cash flow is a meaningful measure because it demonstrates the Company’s ability to service its debt, pay dividends, and make investments to enhance Shareholder value. Although free cash flow is commonly used as a measure of liquidity, definitions of free cash flow may differ; therefore, the Company is providing an explanation of its calculation for free cash flow. For the year ended Dec. 31, 2017, the Company generated $1.8 billion in free cash flow, calculated as operating cash flows of $3.9 billion less capital expenditures of $2.1 billion less assets constructed for others of $126 million plus reimbursements for assets constructed for others of $126 million.

The Company has also provided its calculation of return on invested capital, which is a measure of financial performance used by management to evaluate its investment returns on capital. Return on invested capital is not a substitute for financial results as reported in accordance with GAAP, and should not be utilized in place of such GAAP results. Although return on invested capital is not a measure defined by GAAP, it is calculated by the Company, in part, using non-GAAP financial measures. Those non-GAAP financial measures are utilized for the same reasons as those noted above for Net income, non-GAAP and Operating income, non-GAAP - the comparable GAAP measures include charges or benefits that are deemed "special items" that the Company believes make its results difficult to compare to prior periods, anticipated future periods, or industry trends, and the Company’s profitability targets and estimates, both internally and externally, are based on non-GAAP results since in the vast majority of cases the "special items" cannot be reliably predicted or estimated. The Company believes non-GAAP return on invested capital is a meaningful measure because it quantifies the Company's effectiveness in generating returns relative to the capital it has invested in its business. Although return on invested capital is commonly used as a measure of capital efficiency, definitions of return on invested capital differ; therefore, the Company is providing an explanation of its calculation for non-GAAP return on invested capital in the accompanying reconciliation, in order to allow investors to compare and contrast its calculation to those provided by other companies.

Information regarding special items and reconciliation of reported amounts to amounts excluding special items are included in the accompanying reconciliation tables in the Performance section.
net income in 2017 was $2.1 billion, a decrease of 11.1 percent, year-over-year.

See Footnotes: 33) The Company's Consolidated Financial Statements are prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States ("GAAP"). These GAAP financial statements include (i) unrealized noncash adjustments and reclassifications, which can be significant, as a result of accounting requirements and elections made under accounting pronouncements relating to derivative instruments and hedging and (ii) other charges and benefits the Company believes are unusual and/or infrequent in nature and thus may make comparisons to its prior or future performance difficult.

As a result, the Company also provides financial information in this report that was not prepared in accordance with GAAP and should not be considered as an alternative to the information prepared in accordance with GAAP. The Company provides supplemental non-GAAP financial information (also referred to as "excluding special items"), including results that it refers to as "economic," which the Company's management utilizes to evaluate its ongoing financial performance and the Company believes provides additional insight to investors as supplemental information to its GAAP results. The non-GAAP measures provided that relate to the Company’s performance on an economic fuel cost basis include Fuel and oil expense, non-GAAP; Total operating expenses, non-GAAP; Operating income, non-GAAP; Net income, non-GAAP; and Net income per share, diluted, non-GAAP. The Company's economic Fuel and oil expense results differ from GAAP results in that they only include the actual cash settlements from fuel hedge contracts - all reflected within Fuel and oil expense in the period of settlement. Thus, Fuel and oil expense on an economic basis has historically been utilized by the Company, as well as some of the other airlines that utilize fuel hedging, as it reflects the Company’s actual net cash outlays for fuel during the applicable period, inclusive of settled fuel derivative contracts. Any net premium costs paid related to option contracts are reflected as a component of Other (gains) losses, net, for both GAAP and non-GAAP (including economic) purposes in the period of contract settlement. The Company believes these economic results provide further insight on the impact of the Company's fuel hedges on its operating performance and liquidity since they exclude the unrealized, noncash adjustments and reclassifications that are recorded in GAAP results in accordance with accounting guidance relating to derivative instruments, and they reflect all cash settlements related to fuel derivative contracts within Fuel and oil expense. This enables the Company's management, as well as investors and analysts, to consistently assess the Company's operating performance on a year-over-year or quarter-over-quarter basis after considering all efforts in place to manage fuel expense. However, because these measures are not determined in accordance with GAAP, such measures are susceptible to varying calculations, and not all companies calculate the measures in the same manner. As a result, the aforementioned measures, as presented, may not be directly comparable to similarly titled measures presented by other companies.

The Company’s GAAP results in the applicable periods include other charges or benefits that are also deemed “special items" that the Company believes make its results difficult to compare to prior periods, anticipated future periods, or industry trends. Financial measures identified as non-GAAP (or as excluding special items) have been adjusted to exclude special items. Special items include:

1) A one-time $172 million Special revenue adjustment in July 2015 as a result of the Agreement with Chase and the resulting required change in accounting methodology. This increase to revenue represented a nonrecurring required acceleration of revenues associated with the adoption of Accounting Standards Update 2009-13;
2) Contract ratification bonuses recorded for certain workgroups. As the bonuses would only be paid at ratification of the associated tentative agreement and would not represent an ongoing expense to the Company, management believes its results for the associated periods are more usefully compared if the impacts of ratification bonus amounts are excluded from results. Generally, union contract agreements cover a specified three- to five- year period, although such contracts officially never expire, and the agreed upon terms remain in place until a revised agreement is reached, which can be several years following the amendable date;
3) Expenses associated with the Company’s acquisition and integration of AirTran Holdings, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including AirTran Airways, Inc. (collectively, “AirTran”). Such expenses were primarily incurred during the acquisition and integration period of the two companies from 2011 through 2015 as a result of the Company’s acquisition of AirTran, which closed on May 2, 2011. The exclusion of these expenses provides investors with a more applicable basis with which to compare results in future periods now that the integration process has been completed;
4) A gain resulting from a litigation settlement received in January 2015. This cash settlement meaningfully lowered Other operating expenses during the applicable period and the Company does not expect a similar impact on its cost structure in the future;
5) A noncash impairment charge related to leased slots 33 at Newark Liberty International Airport as a result of the Federal Aviation Administration announcement in April 2016 that this airport was being changed to a Level 2 schedule-facilitated airport from its previous designation as Level 3;
6) Lease termination costs recorded as a result of the Company acquiring 13 of its Boeing 737-300 aircraft off operating leases as part of the Company’s strategic effort to remove its Classic aircraft from operations on or before Sept. 29, 2017, in the most economically advantageous manner possible. The Company had not budgeted for these early lease termination costs, as they were subject to negotiations being concluded with the third party lessors. The Company recorded the fair value of the aircraft acquired off operating leases, as well as any associated remaining obligations to the balance sheet as debt;
7) An Aircraft grounding charge recorded in third quarter 2017, as a result of the Company grounding its remaining Boeing 737-300 aircraft on Sept. 29, 2017. The loss was a result of the remaining net lease payments due and certain lease return requirements that could have to be performed on these leased aircraft prior to their return to the lessors as of the cease-use date. The Company had not budgeted for the lease return requirements, as they are subject to negotiation with third party lessors; and
8) An adjustment to Provision for income taxes related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act legislation enacted in December 2017, which resulted in a re-measurement of the Company's deferred tax assets and liabilities at the new federal corporate tax rate of 21 percent. This adjustment is a non-cash item and is being treated as a special item.

Because management believes each of these items can distort the trends associated with the Company’s ongoing performance as an airline, the Company believes that evaluation of its financial performance can be enhanced by a supplemental presentation of results that exclude the impact of these items in order to enhance consistency and comparativeness with results in prior periods that do not include such items and as a basis for evaluating operating results in future periods. The following measures are often provided, excluding special items, and utilized by the Company’s management, analysts, and investors to enhance comparability of year-over-year results, as well as to industry trends: Total operating expenses, non-GAAP; Operating income, non-GAAP; Provision for income taxes, non-GAAP; Net income, non-GAAP; Net income per share, diluted, non-GAAP; and Operating expenses per ASM, non-GAAP, excluding profitsharing expense, Fuel and oil expense, and special items.

The Company has also provided free cash flow, which is a non-GAAP financial measure. The Company believes free cash flow is a meaningful measure because it demonstrates the Company’s ability to service its debt, pay dividends, and make investments to enhance Shareholder value. Although free cash flow is commonly used as a measure of liquidity, definitions of free cash flow may differ; therefore, the Company is providing an explanation of its calculation for free cash flow. For the year ended Dec. 31, 2017, the Company generated $1.8 billion in free cash flow, calculated as operating cash flows of $3.9 billion less capital expenditures of $2.1 billion less assets constructed for others of $126 million plus reimbursements for assets constructed for others of $126 million.

The Company has also provided its calculation of return on invested capital, which is a measure of financial performance used by management to evaluate its investment returns on capital. Return on invested capital is not a substitute for financial results as reported in accordance with GAAP, and should not be utilized in place of such GAAP results. Although return on invested capital is not a measure defined by GAAP, it is calculated by the Company, in part, using non-GAAP financial measures. Those non-GAAP financial measures are utilized for the same reasons as those noted above for Net income, non-GAAP and Operating income, non-GAAP - the comparable GAAP measures include charges or benefits that are deemed "special items" that the Company believes make its results difficult to compare to prior periods, anticipated future periods, or industry trends, and the Company’s profitability targets and estimates, both internally and externally, are based on non-GAAP results since in the vast majority of cases the "special items" cannot be reliably predicted or estimated. The Company believes non-GAAP return on invested capital is a meaningful measure because it quantifies the Company's effectiveness in generating returns relative to the capital it has invested in its business. Although return on invested capital is commonly used as a measure of capital efficiency, definitions of return on invested capital differ; therefore, the Company is providing an explanation of its calculation for non-GAAP return on invested capital in the accompanying reconciliation, in order to allow investors to compare and contrast its calculation to those provided by other companies.

Information regarding special items and reconciliation of reported amounts to amounts excluding special items are included in the accompanying reconciliation tables in the Performance section.

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