UPDATE 1-JetBlue posts lower Q4 profit as Sandy hurts operations

Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:37pm EST

* Shares down almost 3 percent

Jan 29 (Reuters) - Discounter JetBlue Airways Corp reported lower fourth-quarter profit on Tuesday as Superstorm Sandy disrupted its operations.

Sandy, which barreled through the U.S. Northeast in late October and forced the shutdown of New York area airports, reduced JetBlue's revenue by about $45 million and dented profit by $30 million.

The storm forced JetBlue, and all other carriers serving the U.S. Northeast, to suspend operations in Washington, Boston and New York.

"Hurricane Sandy was the major headline for JetBlue during the fourth quarter," Chief Executive Dave Barger said during the company's earnings conference call. "As the focus shifted to recovery efforts following the storm, we saw a significant decline in customer demand for air travel."

New York-based JetBlue has more than 50 percent of its capacity in the New York metro area.

Quarterly net income fell to $1 million, or nil cents a share, from $23 million, or 8 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts expected profit of 2 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 4 percent to $1.19 billion. Operating expenses rose 8.3 percent, with costs tied to maintenance materials and repairs up 27 percent. The average fare edged down 0.3 percent to $155.17.

Shares of JetBlue were down 2.9 percent to $6.05.

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