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JetBlue Shares Fall on Northeast Weather Shutdown

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- JetBlue (JBLU - Get Report) shares were falling about 4% Monday afternoon as the airline announced plans to halt Northeast operations due to the winter storm.

In mid-afternoon trading, shares were down 34 cents to $8.72.

The carrier said it cancelled 300 flights on Monday, reducing operations at New York Kennedy, New York LaGuardia, Newark and Boston. The reductions began at 1 p.m. EST. Monday. At 5 p.m. EST Monday, JetBlue operations at the four airports will entirely shut down through 10 a.m. EST Tuesday.

The intent "is to ensure recovery of our operations as efficiently as possible and to be fully operable by tomorrow," JetBlue said in a prepared statement. "This plan allows for 17 hours of rest for our equipment and crewmembers and time to service aircraft."  Operations are scheduled to be 100% restored by 3 p.m. EST Tuesday.

 The forecast, the carrier said, is for flash freezing with potentially record low temperatures in the New York area, with temperatures falling to zero in some cases. "As one of the largest carriers in the Northeast, weather in this area impacts our entire route network and operations," the carrier said.

While most of the cancellations are due to extreme weather, a few result from new regulations increasing required rest between flights for pilots, JetBlue spokesman Anders Lindstrom said. "In terms of pilot specific, the extreme weather situation has resulted in many delays, which unfortunately has in turn resulted in pilots timing out and not being available to fly," he said.

Overall, airlines cancelled about 3,000 flights on Monday. "These industry wide cancellations, on top of the previous days' cancellations, have now left millions of air travelers displaced, struggling to find any available seat to get to their destinations," JetBlue said in its blog.

"With planes already full with previously booked holiday travelers, remaining seats are quickly filled, [for some of the other guys, even overbooked], and some customers aren't seeing available seats for nearly a week," the carrier said.

In the past four days, airlines have cancelled about 9,000 flights due to winter weather.

On Friday, JetBlue shares reached a 52-week high of $9.20 in intra-day trading. Shares opened Monday at $9.16.

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Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C. To contact this writer, click here.Follow @tedreednc

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