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During tough times JetBlue Airways turns profit

Kew Gardens-based airline JetBlue Airways, which recently offered its stock for public trading for the first time, reported a $13 million profit in the first quarter at a time of financial hardship for many in the airline industry.

“We are pleased with our financial performance for the first quarter of 2002,” said JetBlue founder and Chairman David Neeleman, “especially in view of the challenging industry environment. We attained our highest ever load factor of 80.8 percent for the quarter, which is quite an accomplishment given that our capacity increased 117 percent over the first quarter of 2001 and 18 percent over the fourth quarter of 2001.”

The company’s first earnings report said profits were up 93 percent and sales doubled over 2001.

JetBlue also became the latest airline to quit paying commissions to travel agents for booking tickets.

“As a low-fare carrier, we need to keep our cost structures as low as possible,” Neeleman said. “When our competitors cut commissions, we took a wait-and-see approach to see if our travel agent bookings increased. Over the last month, travel agency bookings actually decreased as a percentage of our overall business. Under these circumstances, we couldn’t justify paying the extra expense when our competitors weren’t.”

JetBlue is offering through May 31 a $5 discount on reservations made using its Internet Website JetBlue.com

JetBlue, which began flying just over two years ago, flies from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Florida cities, upstate New York points, airports in Northern and Southern California, Burlington, Vt., New Orleans, Denver, Seattle and Salt Lake City and plans to begin service to San Juan, Puerto Rico late next month.

The airline’s fleet of 162-seat Airbus A320 jetliners is equipped with leather seats and television at each seat and all flights are purchased one-way.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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