JetBlue Took a Beating During the Third Quarter

Skift Take

Despite the company’s difficult third quarter, JetBlue executives have reason for optimism — especially with business and international travel making progress in their recoveries.

JetBlue Airways had a rough third quarter, as weather-related disruptions and surging jet fuel costs weighed on profits.

JetBlue reported a $129 million net loss, excluding one-off accounting charges. It generated $2.4 billion in revenue, an 8.2% drop from the same period last year. The company expects another decline in the current fourth quarter – between 6.5% and 10.5%.

“While we have been able to offset some of the costs associated with the challenging operational backdrop, the sheer magnitude of the air traffic control and weather-related delays has been staggering,” said JetBlue Chief Financial Officer Ursula Hurley.

JetBlue President and Chief Operating Officer Joanne Geraghty said the company had 68 days of “operational disruption” during the third quarter, versus 40 days during the same period last year. She added that JetBlue experienced worse air traffic control constraints.

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said that while overall travel demand remains healthy compared to pre-pandemic levels, inflation — including a surge in fuel prices — is hurting profit margins. He added the company’s capacity growth is expected to moderate in the fourth quarter.

Not All Bad News For JetBlue: Premium Leisure and Corporate Travel Uptick

It wasn’t all bad. “JetBlue posted a disappointing (third quarter) report and (fourth quarter) guidance update,” said Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth. “However, much of its commentary on the demand environment and 2024 capacity plans echoed peers. Notably, it is seeing strong peak periods with off-peak period weakness due to domestic industry overcapacity. Moreover, JetBlue continues to see strength in premium leisure and international travel.”

Geraghty said JetBlue has seen a surge in corporate bookings since Labor Day. “(That’s) an encouraging sign that recovery in business travel is picking back up after notably dropping off through the summer,” she said.

JetBlue held its earnings call on the same day a federal court case to block its proposed merger with Spirit Airlines started. The U.S. Department of Justice is suing to stop the merger, arguing it will reduce competition and hurt consumers. JetBlue claims the deal will enhance rather than hinder competition, allowing it for example to compete on more even grounds with larger rivals like Southwest Airlines.

JetBlue executives declined to answer questions about the lawsuit or even discuss the matter during the earnings call.

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