JetBlue swings to a loss, forecasts lower capacity in 2024

JetBlue Airways swung to a loss in the fourth quarter and forecast lower capacity this year as it scrambles to return to profitability.

The New York-based airline reported a net loss of $104 million in the last three months of 2023, compared with a $24 million profit a year earlier. On a per share basis, JetBlue lost 31 cents during the fourth quarter, or 19 cents on an adjusted basis, compared with a 7-cent profit during the year-earlier period.

The airline expects revenue to drop between 5% and 9% in the first three months of the year, more than the 5.5% decline Wall Street analysts were predicting. Capacity in the first quarter will be down as much as 6% the airline said.

JetBlue said it expects 2024 capacity to be down in the low single digits and that its adjusted margins could approach breakeven.

The airline has been grappling with higher costs, operational challenges and changing travel patterns, just as a federal judge earlier this month barred its plan to acquire Spirit Airlines for $3.8 billion. JetBlue warned last week the agreement with Spirit could be terminated, but it didn’t provide further detail in Tuesday’s filing.

Here’s what JetBlue reported for the fourth quarter, compared with Wall Street expectations complied by LSEG, formerly known as Refinitiv:

  • Adjusted loss per share: 19 cents vs. 28 cents expected
  • Revenue: $2.33 billion vs. $2.29 billion expected

Revenue for the fourth quarter was down 3.7% year over year, though still slightly ahead of Wall Street estimates.

JetBlue has been tweaking its network to focus on more profitable flights. CNBC reported JetBlue’s planned flight cuts earlier this month.

“Demand during peak periods remains strong, and we continue to manage our capacity during off-peak periods to reflect evolving demand trends,” said Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s COO and incoming chief executive, in a release. “We plan to continue to refine our network and product offering to better serve our leisure customers while diversifying revenues with margin-accretive initiatives.”

Other airlines including Southwest have also slowed their growth or refined their networks to avoid overcapacity — and low fares — during off-peak periods, while discounting less popular flights.

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