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Westjet profit soars

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WestJet Airlines Ltd (WJA-T), Canada's No. 2 carrier, posted a big jump in its first-quarter profit, beating market estimates, as higher passenger traffic and fare increases offset a rise in fuel costs.

For the second quarter, the low-cost airline projected fuel costs, excluding hedging, of 95-98 cents per liter. Fuel costs were 85 cents in the first quarter.

WestJet, which shifted to reporting under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in the first quarter, said January-March profit rose to $48.2 million, or 34 cents a share, from $2.4 million, or 2 cents a share, a year earlier.

Last year's results have been restated in accordance with IFRS, the company said.

The airline, whose main rival is Air Canada Inc., the country's biggest airline, said revenue for the quarter rose 25 percent to $772.4 million.

Analysts had expected earnings of 18 cents a share, on revenue of $738.03 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

WestJet said its traffic levels, measured in revenue passenger miles, rose 11.7 percent. Capacity measured in available seat miles rose 11.3 percent.

Revenue per available seat mile (RASM)—a key measure of topline performance for airlines—was up 12.1 percent in the first quarter. Load factor rose to 82 percent from 81.7 percent.

Costs per available seat mile (CASM) rose 4.5 percent in the quarter on the back of rising fuel costs, but declined 3.3 percent after fuel and employee profit-sharing expenses were stripped out.

WestJet is expecting adjusted CASM to be relatively flat in the first half of the year, over the last year.

Last week, the airline announced more flights and service perks on flights between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa as it tries to lure more business passengers.

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