JetBlue fliers stranded on plane for 8 hours

Travelers on a morning flight to Cancun are confined for bulk of day until being evacuated by bus; shares jump 4 percent on analyst upgrade.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Shares of JetBlue jumped 4 percent Thursday on an analyst upgrade despite a flood of bad publicity related to a flight that was stranded in New York City.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs upgraded the airline to a "buy" rating from "neutral," citing its margins that look set to improve in coming months.

The airline was faced with more flight cancellations and irate customers Thursday at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, a day after hundreds of passengers spent up to eight hours stranded on a plane due to adverse weather conditions.

So far, 59 of Jet Blue's 565 nationwide flights have been canceled because of icy conditions at Northeast airports and the backlog of stranded passengers from Wednesday's cancellations, according to JetBlue spokesman Brian Baldwin.

Hundreds of passengers are crowding into the airline's domestic terminal at JFK hoping to board flights that should have left Wednesday but were canceled or delayed.

Adam Sankary, a business owner from Brooklyn, was headed to Miami Wednesday for a cruise. His plane sat on the tarmac for eight hours before he and the other passengers were told to get off. Having checked his luggage, he stayed at the airport overnight waiting for word on a new departure time, which he still had not received almost 22 hours later.

JetBlue says the icy conditions coupled with the holiday weekend ahead are complicating matters and adding to the delays. Frozen planes at JFK are having to be de-iced, which takes 30 minutes per aircraft.

"We are resetting our operations from yesterday, but the added traffic for the upcoming holiday weekend is going to make things more difficult," said Jenny Dervin, a JetBlue spokeswoman. The airline is giving its New York passengers full refunds if their flights were canceled and helping rebook passengers to new flights.

In terms of flight delays, JetBlue ranked 16th among the 19 major carriers ranked by the Department of Transportation in 2006, with only 72.9 percent of its flights arriving on time.

But despite the poor on-time performance, JetBlue has one of the lowest rates of consumer complaints filed with the DOT, with only 0.4 complaints per 100,000 passengers, the third best in the industry, behind only Southwest (Charts) and ExpressJet (Charts), a feeder airline which operates at Continental Express.

"Winter storms happen and it's reasonable that people are complaining," said Ray Neidl, airline stock analyst for Calyon Securities. "But JetBlue has a good history of getting their operations back into shape quickly after incidents happen."

Asked whether the incident would affect their image, he said, "It appears to me that people still like their low fares and simple product."

Shares of JetBlue (up $0.47 to $13.70, Charts) closed Wednesday at $13.23 and were at $13.71 approaching midday Thursday on Nasdaq.

Airline stocks have had a rough last month, but JetBlue's stock has tumbled more than those of its competitors, falling 20 percent. United (Charts) has fallen 11 percent; US Airways (Charts) is down 5 percent; and Southwest (Charts) has declined 0.8 percent.

-- From CNN's David Miller. CNN's Carol Costello contributed to this report.

Traveling Easier

Jobless claims soar amid storms Top of page