United and JetBlue Fly Over Estimates

United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE:UAL) and JetBlue Airways Corp. (NASDAQ:JBLU) posted fourth-quarter results that surpassed analysts’ estimates. Increased fares helped them rise above soaring fuel costs. United’s profit apart from a few items was $109 million beating the 11-cent average of estimates. JetBlue’s profit nearly tripled to $23 million.

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“Our strong revenue performance is a direct result of offering customers an unmatched global route network and competitive products, and our co-workers’ focus on service,” United Chief Revenue Officer Jim Compton said.

United and Continental received a single operating certificate from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the carriers are “well positioned” to attain integration goals in 2012, Chief Financial Officer Zane Rowe said.

JetBlue is working with maintenance, repair and overhaul companies to cut annual costs according to Chief Financial Officer Mark Powers. JetBlue’s fleet of Airbus SAS A320s and Embraer E190 has an average 6.1-year life expectancy, one of the lowest in the U.S. industry. “The fleet is growing older,” Powers said. “The rates and honeymoon we enjoyed prior to this period of time are in the past.” JetBlue also has a freeze on management hiring and pay to help keep costs down. The company plans to expand seating capacity as much as 7.5 percent in 2012 and costs to fly per seat will climb 5 percent, excluding fuel costs.

Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE:DAL), Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV) and US Airways Group Inc. (NYSE:LCC) reported fourth-quarter earnings that exceeded estimates. The group combined has net income of $544 million, or $635.2 million. AMR Corp. (AAMRQ) isn’t reporting quarterly results during its bankruptcy reorganization. Alaska Air was by itself trailing analysts’ estimates. Alaska Air’s profits dropped to $37.2 million.

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