Airline stocks fall as Sandy damages pile up

Airline stocks fall, Delta says Superstorm Sandy will cut $20 million from 4Q profit

Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) -- Airline stocks were mixed Friday as Delta Air Lines said Superstorm Sandy will reduce its fourth-quarter profit, and analysts began to estimate the impact on other carriers.

Sandy caused at least 20,000 canceled flights this week on the East Coast, according to flight-tracking services. Some passengers will simply delay their flights, but others are likely to cancel and seek refunds.

Delta Air Lines Inc. said Friday that the storm cost it $45 million in revenue and $20 million in profit. The nation's second-largest airline canceled more than 3,500 flights.

Other airlines are expected to comment on the storm's fallout over the next week, as they report October traffic results. Analysts are already making estimates.

Wolfe Trahan & Co. analyst Hunter Keay estimated that Sandy would reduce earnings before interest and taxes by $45 million at United Airlines, the world's biggest carrier; $30 million each at US Airways and at American Airlines parent AMR Corp.; $20 million at JetBlue; $10 million at Southwest; and $5 million at Spirit.

All the airlines declined to comment on the analyst's estimates. A spokesman for US Airways said it was too soon to know the storm's impact.

Delta, American, United, US Airways and JetBlue all have big operations at airports in the New York City area, hit hardest by Sandy.

In afternoon trading, Spirit shares fell 33 cents, or 2 percent, to $17.07; and fellow low-fare carrier Allegiant Travel Co. lost $1.23 to $72.97.

United Continental Holdings Inc. rose 25 cents to $19.73; Delta was unchanged at $9.70; US Airways Group Inc. fell 2 cents to $12.53; Southwest Airlines Co. was down 2 cents at $9.03; JetBlue Airways Corp. lost 1 cent to $5.34; and Alaska Airlines parent Alaska Air Group rose 4 cents to $39.04.

Some of the concerns about losses from Sandy were offset by lower oil prices. Benchmark crude dropped to $84.91 a barrel, down 2.5 percent. Jet fuel is one of the airlines' biggest expenses.

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