JetBlue posts record profits at end of 2013

JetBlue finished 2013 with record profits, ending a period of airline earning reports that show a once struggling airline industry that appears to have found its financial footing.

The carrier posted a $47 million profit in the last three months of the year, or 14 cents per share. Those results capped off what JetBlue says was its most profitable year ever, with the airline seeing an overall profit of $168 million, or 52 cents per share. In 2012, the airline reaped a $128 million profit, or 40 cents per share.

"While we faced . . .significant challenges during 2013 we are pleased with our results overall,'' Dave Barger, JetBlue's CEO, said in an earnings call with investors. He noted that despite the carrier's record profits, the airline fell short of goals it previously outlined to investors.

Like many of its peers, JetBlue benefited partly from lower, more stable fuel prices, and increased revenue from higher fares.

Very impressive 4th quarter and full year 2013 growth in operating income and net income. 4th quarter traffic grew slower than capacity so load factor fell slightly, by around 1%, but this was firmly offset by 6.5% growth in yield.

"The growth in yield indicates JetBlue is becoming more of a competitor for business passengers, especially in Boston,'' says Kevin Schorr, vice-president of Campbell-Hill Aviation Group. "New Airbus A321s and the introduction of a premium class product on (transcontinental) flights . .. should continue the revenue and yield growth momentum into 2014.''

But the new year has been off to a bumpy start, and could put a slight dent in first quarter revenue. JetBlue officials said that the bad weather in early January, which led to it canceling roughly 1,800 flights, shrank its revenue by roughly $45 million.

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