Sandy cost to airlines upwards of $250m: Analysts

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The cost of superstorm Sandy on airlines is anticipated to be as much as $250 million, according to Wall Street analysts.

The storm that hit New Jersey on 29 October cancelled about 20,000 flights along the eastern seaboard of the USA from south of Washington DC to north of Boston, including the New York City area.

Helane Becker, director of equity research and an airline analyst at Dahlman Rose, says that the impact will be in the range of $200 million and $250 million for all airlines, including foreign carriers. She says that it will be in the range of $170 million to $200 million for just US carriers.

"There's going to be a fourth quarter impact [on airline financials] but it's not easily quantifiable," says Becker. She says that it is still too early to determine how many people will postpone or cancel travel to or from the New York area as a result of the storm.

Michael Linenberg, an airline equities analyst at Deutsche Bank, says that the storm cost airlines a "little less than $200 million pretax", in a report.

Ray Neidl, an airline analyst at the Maxim Group, says that industry losses will be between $150 million and $200 million, in a report. He expects JetBlue Airways, which has hubs at New York's John F. Kennedy and Boston airports, to be the hardest hit with American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways hit hard as well.

Only Delta has put a number to its losses from Sandy. It said that it recorded a $45 million hit to revenue in October and expected a smaller financial impact on its November operational results, on 2 November.

JetBlue says it is too early to determine the financial impact of the storm and points out that their operations in the New York area returned to normal over the weekend.

"Planes don't make money on the ground, they don't cost money, either," says the New York-based low-cost carrier. "We save on fuel and other operating costs while aircraft are on the ground."