JetBlue Airways Corp. on Thursday joined just three other major U.S. airlines in reporting a profit for 2009, but the low-cost carrier could experience some turbulence this year.
JetBlue, based in Forest Hills, N.Y., expects sales to be hurt in the first half of 2010 by its transition to a new reservation system and by aircraft maintenance costs. There are also questions about the affect of the temporary closure of the main runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport, JetBlue’s home base, will operate 10 percent fewer departures while the runway is closed for improvements, March 1 to June 30.
JetBlue made a profit every quarter last year as its low-cost model and contracts that locked in the price of jet fuel kept it from posting losses common at some of the bigger domestic airlines.
For the full-year 2009, JetBlue reported a profit of $58 million, or 20 cents per share, compared with a year-ago loss of $85 million, or 37 cents per share.
Southwest Airlines, AirTran and Alaska Air were the other major airlines that made money for the year.
JetBlue posted a profit of $11 million, or 4 cents a share in the fourth quarter, compared to a loss of $58 million, or 25 cents a share, for the same period in 2008. Revenue rose 2.6 percent to $832 million from $811 million.
Thomson Reuters says analysts expected profit of 3 cents per share on revenue of $827.9 million.
Sales for 2009 fell 3 percent to $3.29 billion.
JetBlue also said in a conference call that it plans to defer delivery of 16 jets originally scheduled to be delivered between 2012 and 2016 until 2017 to 2018. Four other Embraer jets that were set for delivery in 2012 will be delivered this year.
CEO Dave Barger said the company “has earned the right to play some offense” and plans to deploy those planes in and out of Boston and the Caribbean, where bookings have been strong. The next new route is planned for May, to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Nonstop flights will operate from Boston’s Logan Airport and New York’s JFK.
JetBlue said its capacity, or the size and number of planes, will decrease in the rest of the cities it serves this year. Capacity in the fourth-quarter was up 6 percent.