JetBlue’s profit soars on lower fuel prices

JetBlue Pilots Vote To Unionize
<> on April 23, 2014 in the Queens borough of New York City.
Photograph by Andrew Burton—Getty Images

JetBlue (JBLU) reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit as it benefitted from lower fuel prices and flew more passengers.

JetBlue, whose shares were up sharply in pre-market trading, said average fuel cost per gallon fell to $2.70 in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 from $3.10 a year earlier.

The company’s load factor rose to 82.1% from 80.9%, leading to an 8.5% increase in revenue passenger miles (RPM), a metric of an airline’s passenger traffic.

JetBlue said it expects capacity to increase 11-13% in the first quarter and 7-9% this year.

The airline said in November that it would charge fees for low-fare customers’ first checked bags, following industry practices.

JetBlue said on Thursday that it expects fuel costs, which amount to a third of an airline’s total operating expenses, to be $1.97 per gallon for the first quarter.

Rival United Continental last week forecast fuel costs to be $1.96-$2.01 per gallon for the quarter.

Barclays had said in December that airlines could see a fall of about $10 billion in fuel costs in 2015.

JetBlue’s net profit increased to $88 million, or 26 cents per share, from $47 million, or 14 cents per share.

Total operating revenue grew 5.9% to $1.4 billion.

Analysts on average expected a profit of 24 cents per share on revenue of $1.45 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

New York-based JetBlue’s shares had gained about 85% in the last 12 months to Wednesday’s close of $15.77 on the Nasdaq.

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