October 23, 2018 / 11:56 AM / a year ago

JetBlue Airways profit falls on higher fuel costs

CHICAGO, Oct 23 (Reuters) - JetBlue Airways Corp posted a fall in third quarter profit on Tuesday, broadly in line with Wall Street expectations, hurt by a 36.6 percent rise in fuel prices.

The No. 5 U.S. carrier by traffic said earnings fell to 43 cents per share from 55 cents in the year-ago quarter, slightly above Wall Street's average forecast of 42 cents, according to Refinitiv data.

New York-based JetBlue, which last month announced a no-frills economy fare to better compete with rivals, said the third quarter figure excluded $112 million in one-time costs related to its E190 fleet transition and a recently signed pilot contract.

At its investor day earlier this month, JetBlue announced plans to improve profitability by shifting more flights to three main cities - Boston, New York and Fort Lauderdale - and by selling more travel services such as car rentals and hotels.

"In the short term, we are focused on improving our earnings, particularly in the areas we can control, and have a plan to improve margins in 2019, and again in 2020," said Robin Hayes, JetBlue's Chief Executive Officer.

Operating expenses increased 28 percent in the third quarter from the previous year on the back of higher fuel and labor costs.

In the fourth quarter, JetBlue said it is trimming capacity growth and will otherwise keep a tight rein on costs. Capacity is expected to increase between 7.5 percent and 9.5 percent year over year in the fourth quarter 2018, including a previously announced reduction in available seat miles. (Reporting by Tracy Rucinski Editing by Bill Rigby)

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