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HomeMarketJetBlue Sees Softer December Demand. It May Not Be Too Serious.

JetBlue Sees Softer December Demand. It May Not Be Too Serious.

JetBlue said the holiday calendar timing has also negatively impacted its revenue forecast.

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Photograph by Matthew Hinton/AFP/Getty Images

JetBlue Airways
said Tuesday that a strong expected surge in last-minute December bookings hasn’t quite materialized as the company had anticipated.

It’s the first real piece of negative news for the sector when it comes to demand in months. But it may not be that bad.

Airlines have enjoyed a stellar end to the year, posting bumper third quarter revenue and benefiting from strong leisure demand and a rebound in both business and international travel.

Robust demand and industry-wide capacity constraints have enabled carriers to hike airfares—a key factor behind the strong revenue performance.

But
JetBlue
‘s (ticker: JBLU) warning hints that demand may just be starting to soften. Alternatively, they were expecting too much ahead of the Christmas holiday season.

The company said it expects revenue per available seat mile for the fourth quarter to be at the low-end of its guidance for a 15% to 19% jump. The low-cost carrier said that while demand trends continue to be strong, the “expected very strong close-in demand for December” has materialized below expectations.

In other words, last-minute Christmas bookings haven’t been as strong as they anticipated. The adverse impact of the holiday calendar this year is also a factor, it said, as well as the effects of Hurricane Nicole in November.

At least JetBlue is still on track to meet its guidance, albeit at the low end.

JetBlue expects costs per available seat mile, excluding fuel—an industry metric for efficiency—to increase by between 8.5% and 10.5% in the fourth quarter compared with 2019 levels, sticking to its prior outlook. Capacity is expected to increase by 1% to 4%.

It’s too early to say whether JetBlue’s update is the first tentative sign that demand may be diminishing or if the company just got overexcited.

If other airlines start saying the same then it could preempt a disappointing fourth quarter earnings season for the sector.

The stock was up 2% in premarket trading, in line with the broader market.

Write to Callum Keown at callum.keown@barrons.com

Credit: marketwatch.com

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