April 24, 2018 / 12:46 PM / 10 months ago

UPDATE 1-JetBlue 1st-qtr profit rises on higher fares, lower taxes

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NEW YORK, April 24 (Reuters) - JetBlue Airways Corp said on Tuesday that quarterly net income increased by 7 percent as higher fares and a lower U.S. tax rate helped offset higher fuel and other costs.

Shares rose 1.2 percent to $20.15 in premarket trading.

Net income rose to $88 million from $82 million in the year-ago period, boosted by a 6.8 percent increase in average fares and a 43.4 percent decrease in income tax expense.

The New York-based airline said pretax income fell to $110 million from $126 million in the first quarter of 2017, and its pretax margin declined 1.3 percent to 6.3 percent.

"Since the end of 2017 demand has strengthened across our network, and we saw further close-in strength to end the quarter," JetBlue Executive Vice President Marty St. George said in a statement. Close-in refers to the typically more expensive tickets purchased near the date of scheduled departure.

Excluding fuel, JetBlue's quarterly unit costs rose 3.1 percent, in line with its earlier forecast, and will grow between 2.0 percent and 4.0 percent in the second quarter, the airline said. (Reporting by Alana Wise Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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