High jet fuel costs cut into WestJet Airlines fourth quarter earnings, down 39%

High jet fuel costs cut into WestJet Airlines fourth quarter earnings, down 39%

CALGARY — WestJet Airlines Ltd. saw surging jet fuel prices dent its profits in its fourth quarter, with net earnings falling 39 per cent year over year.

Passenger revenue grew seven per cent last quarter compared to the same period a year earlier, but fuel costs rose 21 per cent to $304.9 million, WestJet said, cancelling out some of the gains.

Oil and jet fuel prices climbed to four-year highs in October, though fell sharply afterward, according to the International Air Transport Association.

WestJet earned $29.2 million in the fourth quarter, down from $47.8 million in the same period a year earlier.

The profit amounted to 26 cents per diluted share for the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with 41 cents per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Revenue for the Calgary-based company totalled $1.19 billion in the last three months of 2018, up from $1.12 billion a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 13 cents per share for the quarter and revenue of $1.19 billion, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

Volatile fuel prices and exchange rates have “created downward pressure on margins” for WestJet and Air Canada, “despite the healthy demand environment and strong revenue growth,” CIBC World Markets analyst Kevin Chiang said in an investor note.

For the full year, WestJet said it earned $91.5 million or 80 cents per diluted share, down from $279.1 million or $2.38 per diluted share in 2017.

Revenue totalled $4.73 billion for 2018, up from $4.51 billion.

Get travel news right to your inbox!