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WestJet Shows Passenger Growth as Battle for Air Canada’s Business Flyers Ensues

Skift Take

WestJet succeeded last quarter at growing passenger volume and revenue at a rate that outpaced rising fuel and operational costs; something that all airlines today are striking to do.

— Samantha Shankman

WestJet Airlines Ltd. reported first- quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates as the carrier flew more passengers and revenue growth outpaced an increase in fuel and airport operations costs.

Net earnings rose to 69 Canadian cents a diluted share from 68 cents a year earlier, the Calgary-based airline said today in a statement. Excluding costs and gains, WestJet had been projected to earn 63 cents a share, the average estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 13 analysts.

Canada’s second-largest airline is expanding its short-haul Encore unit and its premium economy service to woo business- class travelers and challenge larger rival Air Canada. Revenue for the quarter climbed 7.7 percent to C$1.04 billion ($949 million), meeting the average estimate, as WestJet flew 4.81 million passengers — a 7 percent increase from the same period a year earlier.

WestJet rose 0.8 percent to C$24.97 yesterday in Toronto. The stock has lost 10 percent of its value this year, in contrast to the 7.9 percent climb of Canada’s benchmark Standard & Poor’s/TSX Composite Index.

Revenue for each seat flown a mile declined 0.2 percent to 16 cents, WestJet said. The airline lowered its first-quarter revenue forecast on March 7, saying it would be “flat to slightly down” because of “slightly softer” domestic demand and a larger impact than previously anticipated from the shift of the Easter and Passover holidays to the second quarter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Frederic Tomesco in Montreal at tomesco@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net Kim McLaughlin, Tom Lavell.

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