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JetBlue Airways tops profit estimates in first quarter

A Jet Blue aircraft takes off from Long Beach Airport in Long Beach, CA.
Tim Rue | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A Jet Blue aircraft takes off from Long Beach Airport in Long Beach, CA.

JetBlue Airways on Tuesday reported a first-quarter profit above analysts' estimates as cheap fuel and revenue from newly introduced bag fees and first-class seats added to its bottom line.

The U.S. budget carrier said net income grew 45.6 percent from a year ago to $199 million, or 59 cents per share. Analysts on average were expecting 53 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

A rise in passenger traffic offset lower average prices per mile to boost revenue by 6.1 percent to $1.6 billion, JetBlue said. However, a closely watched measure called passenger unit revenue — sales measured against JetBlue's plane seats and mileage — fell 8 percent from a year ago.

New York-based JetBlue also said that it paid on average $1.17 per gallon of fuel in the quarter, down 43 percent from a year ago, in part because it was not locked into losing fuel hedges. It said it remains unhedged in the second quarter and that its unit costs will only rise up to 1.5 percent this year, shaving earlier guidance of a possibly 2 percent rise.

Sterne Agee CRT analyst Adam Hackel said the cost performance exceeded expectations.