Regional airline

SkyWest

(SKYW) - Get Report

ran into turbulence during the first quarter and missed Wall Street estimates, as bad weather and new plane costs caused expenses to outpace revenue.

The St. George, Utah, company reported net income of $18.8 million, or 32 cents a share, compared with $19.4 million, or 33 cents a share, a year before. First-quarter EPS was 6 cents short of the 38-cents-a-share analyst consensus from Thomson First Call.

In reaction, shares fell 69 cents, or 3.5%, to $18.64.

Revenue totaled $340.3 million, up 34.1% from $253.7 million a year before, and better than the $331.1 million average analyst estimate.

Revenue growth was driven by a 33.8% increase in capacity, as measured by available seat miles, or ASMs. SkyWest's fleet grew to 219 planes by the end of the quarter, vs. 188 a year before. During the quarter, SkyWest took delivery of 13 new CRJ700 regional jets, nine of which were delivered ahead of schedule.

Expenses grew more than revenue, however, rising 48.7% to $178.0 million from $119.7 million a year before. Expenses were boosted by increased plane ownership costs from the early delivery of the nine planes. In addition, bad weather forced SkyWest to cancel 1,100 more flights than normal during the quarter; that caused some costs to rise even though the airline took a revenue hit from the cancellations.

Regional airlines operate shorter flights on smaller planes to larger network airline hubs. The network partners typically reimburse the regionals for their expenses and tack on a profit margin. That has largely insulated the regional airlines from the rising fuel costs that have caused major carriers to gush red ink.

SkyWest makes flights for three major U.S. airlines:

Continental Airlines

(CAL) - Get Report

;

Delta Air Lines

(DAL) - Get Report

; and

UAL Corp's

(UALAQ.OB)

United Airlines

.