UPDATE 2-Air Canada's profit beats estimates as costs fall; stock up

Thu Nov 5, 2015 11:08am EST
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(Adds quote from CEO, analyst's commentary)

By Allison Lampert

MONTREAL Nov 5 (Reuters) - Air Canada, the country's biggest airline, reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday, helped by lower fuel costs and higher-than-anticipated demand.

Lower costs boosted the company's operating margin by 6.5 percentage points during the third quarter ended Sept. 30.

Montreal-based Air Canada said it now expected its adjusted cost per available seat mile, which excludes fuel expenses, to decline by up to 1 percent in 2015 as a weaker Canadian dollar increases some expenses. The carrier had previously forecast a 1 percent to 2 percent decrease.

Air Canada chief executive Calin Rovinescu said Canadians continued to travel in the quarter despite a weaker economy, and the carrier received a boost from its U.S. operations.

"Even if we were in what the Bank of Canada deemed a recessionary environment, people were still traveling," Rovinescu told analysts on a conference call.

Rovinescu said "it's too early to say" what action Air Canada will take following Tuesday's Quebec Court of Appeal decision, which ordered the carrier to keep heavy maintenance operations in Montreal.

Air Canada stock rose 4.3 percent to C$11.33 in morning trading.   Continued...