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Higher ticket prices helped all major U.S. airlines report fourth-quarter profits that beat analyst forecasts; however, winter storms are expected to drag down that profit growth in the first quarter of 2014.

JetBlue Airways on Wednesday reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit as rising ticket prices bolstered revenue.

The New York-based carrier cited “strong” revenue trends for the current period but added flight cancellations this month in wake of unfavorable weather in the U.S. Northeast would hurt first quarter results.

Net income was $47 million, or 14 cents a diluted share, for the fourth quarter, compared with $1 million, or nil cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts expected 13 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Quarterly revenue rose 14 percent to $1.37 billion, compared with $1.35 billion expected by analysts. The average airfare increased 8.9 percent to $168.94.

New York-based JetBlue, which competes with big full-service airlines as well as newer entrants with a low-cost focus, increased flights to the Caribbean and Latin America and raised some change fees to bolster revenue. This year, it will start offering lie-flat beds on cross-country flights in a bid to attract more business travelers.

The carrier, which has 80 percent of its operations in the U.S. Northeast, has struggled to keep down costs, which rose nearly 9 percent in the fourth quarter. Expenses tied to fuel and salaries rose 5 percent and 12 percent, respectively, while costs for maintenance materials and repairs spiked 23 percent.

JetBlue said January winter weather that led it to cancel about 1,800 flights would hurt first-quarter operating income by $30 million and reduced total revenue by about $45 million. The company shut down operations at airports in Boston and the New York area on Jan. 6 to get its operations back on track .

Copyright (2014) Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions

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Tags: earnings, jetblue airways

Photo credit: A JetBlue jet readies for its flight from New York City's JFK to Orlando International. Peter Dutton / Flickr

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