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JetBlue Reports Record Quarterly Revenues

Spirit Acquisition Remains Uncertain

JetBlue, the U.S. low-cost airline currently at odds with the Biden DOJ over its proposed acquisition of Spirit Airlines, has reported its highest quarterly profit since 2019. The Queens, New York-headquartered air-carrier posted 2023 second-quarter earnings of $138-million—a significant improvement over second-quarter 2022 losses of $188-million.

Positive short-term results notwithstanding, unfavorable factors, such as the carrier’s abandonment of its Northeast Alliance (NEA) partnership with American Airlines, have compelled JetBlue to reduce its full-year earnings forecast.

JetBlue’s second-quarter 2023 adjusted net profit was cited as $152-million. The airline further recorded operating revenues of $2.6 billion—up 6.7-percent year-on-year—while its Cost per Available Seat Mile (CASM) decreased by 12.2-percent.

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes set forth: "Thanks to the hard work of our fantastic crewmembers, we generated our highest quarterly profit since 2019, demonstrating the progress we have made since the pandemic. These results were underpinned by record quarterly revenues and strong operational performance, reflecting the benefits from our significant investments and robust preparations for the peak summer travel period."

Regrettably, JetBlue’s outlook for 2023’s third-quarter is a good deal gloomier. The airline’s management posits revenues could fall by as much as eight-percent compared to 2022’s third-quarter, thereby occasioning losses of up to $0.20-per-share.

In spite of strong earnings, JetBlue stock fell by approximately five-percent following the posting of its second-quarter 2023 financials.

JetBlue president and COO Joanna Geraghty remarked: "Looking ahead, we are updating our full-year earnings outlook to reflect near-term headwinds related to the termination of the NEA, a challenging operating environment in the northeast and a greater than expected shift of pent-up COVID demand to long-haul international markets which is pressuring demand for domestic travel during the peak summer travel period."

JetBlue’s second-quarter 2023 challenges included air traffic control staffing shortages and inclement spring weather. Nevertheless, the carrier maintains it will remain profitable throughout 2023, and is "taking action" to adapt to changing market conditions and improve its margins—to include "better utilization, technology upgrades, fleet modernization, and our structural cost program."

In July, JetBlue agreed with a judge's ruling to end its alliance with American Airlines, a move likely to advance its aspirations to acquire Spirit Airlines. Interestingly, the judge ruled, also, against imposing further restrictions on a future JetBlue-American partnership.

On 15 July 2023, JetBlue and American Airlines confirmed the end of the Northeast Alliance—a partnership comprising codeshares, bookings, and loyalty program cooperation between the two air-carriers. Antitrust pundits broadly agree the dissolution of the Northeast Alliance improves JetBlue’s chances of prevailing in the ongoing trial over the airline’s $3.8-billion bid to acquire Spirit Airlines.

In its March 2023 lawsuit filed for purpose of halting JetBlue’s purchase of Spirit, the Biden Department of Justice cited JetBlue’s alliance with American Airlines—particularly at airports in the New York and Boston metropolitan areas—as evidence of a burgeoning monopoly on U.S. East Coast air travel.

Impugning subject partnership as a "de facto merger," the Biden DOJ argued JetBlue's proposed purchase of Florida-based ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit would harm competition by engendering further industry concentration.

Ms. Hayes opined the termination of the Northeast Alliance would take the DOJ’s “misplaced” concerns off the proverbial table and better JetBlue’s chances of winning the scheduled October 2023 court battle with the DOJ.

New York University School of Law antitrust professor Elanor Fox suggested JetBlue had, in fact, improved its chances of a courtroom victory by terminating its partnership with American Airlines, thereby diminishing its presence in certain markets and underscoring perceptions of a level, U.S. East Coast air-transport industry playing field.

FMI: www.jetblue.com

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