UPDATE 3-Canada's WestJet reports higher-than-expected profit

Tue May 3, 2016 12:25pm EDT
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* First-quarter fuel costs fall 21 pct

* Cost per available seat mile falls 4.2 pct (Adds CEO remarks from conference call, comments from analysts)

May 3 (Reuters) - Canada's WestJet Airlines Ltd on Tuesday reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by lower fuel costs.

Calgary-based WestJet's fuel expenses, typically an airline's largest variable cost, fell nearly 21 percent to C$166.4 million ($132.4 million).

WestJet has shifted its focus to eastern Canada and suspended nearly a dozen daily flights in January from Alberta's airports after airlines operating in the oil-rich province started recording a significant decline in passenger traffic.

On a conference call with analysts, Chief Financial Officer Harry Taylor said the airline would continue with efforts to control its costs, including renegotiating contracts with vendors.

"We are not going to leave any stone unturned," Taylor said.

The company's cost per available seat mile, a measure of how much an airline spends to fly a passenger, fell 4.2 percent to 12.45 Canadian cents in the first quarter, from a year earlier.   Continued...