JetBlue Airways Corp. (NASDAQ: JBLU) saw its airline traffic jump an astounding 17.4 percent in February, the company announced Monday in a press release.
Traffic spiked in the year-over-year period, while revenue passenger miles rose from 2.08 million a year ago to 2.44 million this February. Passenger revenue per available seat miles is a key profit metric in the airline industry.
Capacity increased 15.5 percent, from 2.6 billion to about 3 billion. The New York-based airline said its load factor, the percentage of seats filled, was 81.4 percent in February, also marking an increase of 1.3 points from the reported 80.1 percent February 2011.
In its year to date, JetBlue has seen similar big increases across the board. Traffic has increased 15.3 percent in 2012 over first two months of 2011, and capacity has increased almost 14 percent.
JetBlue posted bigger February traffic gains than competitor Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV), which on Wednesday reported a traffic increase of 3.9 percent, its first rise in three monjblbths. The Dallas-based Southwest, the nation's largest airline carrier, said capacity in February had increased 6.2 percent from the year-ago period.
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JetBlue's traffic increase, on the other hand, continues the trend for the company. In January, JetBlue's air traffic jumped 13 percent, and its capacity grew 12 percent from the previous-year period. Passenger revenue per available seat mile rose 10 percent.
In a separate note Monday, Zacks Equity Research said it expected the U.S. airline industry to remain profitable over the next two decades. But the firm cautioned that for the industry as a whole, growth would likely be stymied until 2015 because of global economic fragilities and the rising cost of fuel. Zacks expects demand for air travel to double over the next 20 years.
JetBlue shares close seven cents down to $4.91.