JetBlue Profit Nearly Triples

JetBlue Airlines issued its fourth-quarter results Thursday, announcing its profit nearly tripled from a year ago as milder weather allowed the airline to operate more flights on time and passenger traffic increased sharply. Investors lauded the results, sending shares of the airline up more than 4 percent. JetBlue’s success in the fourth quarter echo those of competitors Delta and US Airways, each of which posted better-than-expected results on Wednesday.

In the three months ended December 31st, JetBlue said it earned $23 million, or 8 cents a share, up from $8 million, or 3 cents a share, in the final three months of 2010. Revenue, meanwhile, increased 22 percent year-to-year to $1.15 billion, thanks to carefully executed price and fee increases. Analysts taking part in a recent FactSet survey were expecting 4 cents per share in earnings on revenue of $1.13 billion. In 2010’s fourth quarter, results were impacted by a major winter storm that hammered the airline’s major hubs, New York and Boston, costing the airline some $30 million in revenue.

For 2011 as a whole, JetBlue earned $86 million, or 28 cents per share, compared to earnings of $97 million, 31 cents a share, for all of 2010. The company made about $21 per passenger in extra fees last year, up 8 percent from the year before. The airline also reported significant improvement in revenue from its frequent flier program and vacation package deals. JetBlue ended 2011 with a fleet of 169 planes, which it is planning on expanding to 180 by the end of 2012.