Airlines shake off travel fears, gain on earnings

A ground crewmember prepares to push back an American Airlines Boeing 737-823 jet at a terminal at  Miami International Airport.
Mark Elias | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A ground crewmember prepares to push back an American Airlines Boeing 737-823 jet at a terminal at Miami International Airport.

Travel-related shares were mixed on Friday after New York officials confirmed the state's first case of the Ebola virus, but losses were capped by positive earnings results and forecasts.

Global airline shares have taken a beating since the Ebola outbreak expanded to the U.S. last month as investors fear it could dent travel demand, but U.S. officials have downplayed a widespread epidemic.

"It's a small effect, mainly on travel-related stocks, because additional cases tend to make investors worry about some kind of travel restrictions," said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones.

Read MoreEbola or not, stocks may rise near highs: Trader

"Or, it's the airlines or the cruise ships, where it's a discretionary decision that may have people deciding they don't want to take that trip and the risk."

American Airlines—the world's largest airline based on passenger traffic—rose about 2 percent after it reported record-breaking third-quarter profit and forecast record results for the fourth quarter and full year.

The stock, however, was still down about 3 percent from its September high.

Read MoreUnderstanding the difference in stock price swings

JetBlue and Delta Airlines were boosted by the upbeat forecast, but they were among the hardest hit over the last month, down 15 percent and 22 percent, respectively, from their September peaks.

Domestic operators, including Spirit and Southwest, were also impacted by Ebola fears. Spirit has declined 54 percent since last month's peak, while Southwest lost about 3 percent over the same period.

U.S. airline companies have downplayed fears the spread of the virus will spark lower travel demand.

With headwinds from lower jet fuel prices, high consumer demand and price-hikes, airlines posted profit increases of between 27 percent and 97 percent in the second quarter.

On Thursday, Southwest said its net income rose 27 percent and it said holiday booking projection looked good.

"Travel demand has been really strong," Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told CNBC earlier this week. "From a macro perspective, the economy has been more stable this year, energy prices have been stable… up until the recent drop."

On Friday, American acknowledged bookings figures took a temporary hit the day after congressional hearings on the Ebola virus took place, but it expects passenger revenue to grow between 2 percent and 4 percent in the current quarter.

The NYSE Arca Airline index and the Dow Jones Transportation Average held on to modest gains, while SPDR S&P Transportation ETF declined.

United Continental, Ryanair and Republic Airways were all negative on the day.