JetBlue ekes out $1 million 4Q profit

Higher costs, Hurricane Sandy cost JetBlue as profit nearly vanishes in fourth quarter

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- JetBlue Airways Corp. scratched out a $1 million profit in the fourth quarter as costs rose twice as fast as revenue and Hurricane Sandy washed away some ticket sales.

The company broke even on a per-share basis. A year earlier, the airline earned $23 million, or 8 cents per share.

Revenue rose 4 percent to $1.19 billion from $1.15 billion a year ago.

The carrier fell short of Wall Street expectations on both counts and shares slid 4 percent before the opening bell. Analysts were looking for a profit of 2 cents per share and revenue of $1.20 billion, according to a poll by FactSet.

JetBlue, the nation's sixth-biggest airline by passenger-carrying capacity, said Hurricane Sandy cost $45 million in lost revenue as it was forced to cancel flights and travel slowed even after the East Coast storm passed.

JetBlue's costs rose 8 percent, an increase of $87 million. The two biggest items, jet fuel and labor expenses, increased 6 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

Yet JetBlue's average fare during the fourth quarter was $155.17 each way, nearly unchanged from $155.60 a year earlier.

JetBlue said it expects to expand passenger-carrying capacity by 5.5 percent in the first quarter and 7.5 percent for all of 2013. Airlines have been controlling capacity to avoid too many empty seats and prevent ticket prices from falling.

Shares of JetBlue Airways Corp., based in New York, fell 25 cents to $5.98.

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