WestJet's profit drops as fuel costs soar

WestJet says its fourth-quarter profit fell even though it flew a record number of guests in 2017, as fuel costs rose by 20 per cent compared to the same period a year earlier.

Calgary-based airline earned $48.5M in fourth quarter of 2017 compared to $55.2M at end of 2016

WestJet's fourth quarter profit for 2017 was down compared to a year ago. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

WestJet Airlines Ltd. saw its fourth-quarter profit fall compared with a year ago as its costs rose.

The airline says it earned $48.5 million or 42 cents per diluted share for the last three months of 2017, down from a profit of $55.2 million or 47 cents per diluted share a year earlier.

Revenue totalled nearly $1.12 billion, up from nearly $1.02 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016.

The average analyst estimate had been for a profit of 42 cents per share and revenue of $1.11 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.

The results came as WestJet's cost per available seat mile rose 5.5 per cent to 13.57 cents, up from 12.86 cents in the fourth quarter of 2016.

WestJet said the costs of aircraft fuel increased by nearly 20 per cent from a year earlier, climbing to $251,619 in the fourth quarter of 2017 compared to $210,489 in that quarter of 2016.

The airline also said it flew a record number of guests for the full year and in each quarter of 2017.

Excluding the cost of fuel and employee profit sharing, the cost per available seat mile increased 3.6 per cent to 10.23 cents compared with 9.87 cents a year earlier.

WestJet grew capacity measured by available seat miles by 5.6 per cent compared with a year earlier, while traffic measured by revenue passenger miles climbed 8.8 per cent.