Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV) posted a fractionally improved second-quarter profit as higher operating gains and lower fuel costs offset tepid revenue, the Dallas discount carrier said Thursday.

Southwest said it earned $224 million, or 31 cents per share, compared with $228 million, or 30 cents per share, a year earlier. Stripping away special items, mostly changes in the value of fuel-hedging bets, the company said it earned $274 million, or 38 cents per share, meeting analysts' expectations based on a Thomson Reuters poll. Last year, the company earned before items $273 million, or 36 cents per share.

Revenue edged up to $4.64 billion from $4.62 billion. Analysts had expected revenue of $4.66 billion. Unit revenue fell 2.4 percent to $4.64 billion.

"While the lingering effects of government sequestration and higher taxes continued to be a drag on air travel demand, second-quarter 2013 revenues and passenger traffic still reached record levels," Southwest CEO Gary C. Kelly said.

"In addition, we are in the midst of integrating AirTran, launching new city-pairs, and optimizing the combined networks.  We maintained strong load factors and ended the quarter with a record June load factor of 85 percent, which is notable considering the increasing mix of larger gauge 737-800s and Evolve -700s."