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Airline Stock Roundup: Alaska Air Group to Join S&P 500,Traffic Releases in Focus

Alaska Air Group ALK has been dominating the headlines in the airline space as it prepares to join the sought-after S&P 500 index on May 12, replacing SanDisk Corp., which is about to be acquired by Western Digital Corp.

On the earnings front, Latin American carrier Copa Holdings CPA hogged the limelight by reporting better-than-expected earnings and revenues in the first quarter of 2016. Furthermore, the past week saw heavyweights in the airline space like United Continental Holdings UAL, American Airlines Group Inc. AAL and Southwest Airlines Co. LUV post their traffic numbers for the month of April.

Read the last Airline Stock Roundup for May 04, 2016.

Recap of the Past Week’s Most Important Stories

1. Alaska Air Group is set to join the S&P 500 after market close on May 12, 2016. The Seattle, WA-based carrier will be the first airline stock to join the S&P 500 this year. Fellow carriers United Continental and American Airlines were included in the benchmark last year. Alaska Air Group will be added to the S&P 500 GICS “Industrials” sector or Airlines Sub-Industry index as the carrier fulfills all the criteria for being included in the index.

On a separate note, the carrier announced plans of a codeshare deal and frequent flier pact with Japan Airlines. The customer-friendly move will be effective from Jun 29, assuming government approval.

  2. Copa Holdings’ first-quarter earnings (on an adjusted basis) of $1.66 per share were above the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.38. Results were aided by low fuel costs. The average price of fuel declined 27.2% year over year to $1.68 per gallon. Earnings were however significantly below the year-ago figure of $2.41 per share. Quarterly revenues declined 11.9% on a year-over-year basis to $557 million, primarily due to the 12.4% decline in passenger revenues.

Revenues, however, beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $549 million. Passenger revenue per available seat mile (PRASM: a measure of unit revenue) declined 14.5% to 9.7 cents in the reported quarter. Operating revenue per available seat mile (RASM) decreased 13.9% to 10 cents. Another important metric, yield per passenger mile went down by 15.4%. Passenger traffic (on a consolidated basis) climbed 3.6% during the quarter primarily on a 2.4% capacity expansion. Load factor (% of seats filled by passengers) improved 90 basis points to 77.4% as traffic growth outpaced capacity expansion.

On a separate note, the carrier unveiled its traffic numbers for April. Revenue passenger miles (RPMs: a measure of air traffic) improved 4.1% while Available seat miles (ASMs: a measure of capacity) fell 0.4%. Load factor (% of seats filled by passengers) improved 330 basis points to 76.1% as traffic expanded while capacity contracted.

3. Southwest Airlines revealed healthy traffic numbers for the month of April with RPMS rising 4.7% on a year-over-year basis to 10.4 billion. ASMs climbed 4.3% to 12.4 billion. The carrier continues to expect operating revenue per ASM (RASM) to increase modestly in the second quarter of 2016 (read more: Southwest Airlines April Traffic Strong; Maintains RASM View).

4. United Continental Holdings, the holding company of United Airlines, posted a 1.9% decrease in RPMs for Apr 2016 on a 0.9% reduction in ASMs. The carrier still expects consolidated PRASM to decline in the range of 6.5% to 8.5% in the second quarter (read more: United Continental's April Traffic Falls, PRASM View Intact).

5. American Airlines posted a 0.2% decline in April RPMs to 18 billion while ASMs climbed 1.3% on a year-over-year basis to 22.4 billion. Load factor fell 120 basis points to 80.4% in April as traffic contracted while capacity expanded. American Airlines still forecasts a 6% to 8% drop in PRASM for the second quarter of 2016. Moreover, pre-tax margin (exclusive of special items) is likely to remain in the band of 14% to 16%.  


The following table shows the price movement of the major airline players over the past week and during the last 6 months. 


Past Week

Last 6 months

















































The table above shows that most airline stocks traded in the red over the past week leading to the NYSE ARCA Airline index declining 1.52% to $86.32 over the past 5 trading days. Shares of Spirit Airlines depreciated the most (2.85%) while Latin American carrier GOL Linhas emerged as the biggest gainer (15.28%) as investors seemed to be pleased with the carrier’s ongoing restructuring process.

Over the past six months too most airline stocks have shed value with the NYSE ARCA Airline index declining 4.57%%. Shares of Virgin America appreciated the most (50.24%) during the period and JetBlue Airways JBLU emerged as the biggest laggard (26.63%).

What's Next in the Airline Space?

GOL Linhas will reveal its first quarter 2016 results shortly. Focus will also be on the May 17 presentations by key airline players like American Airlines and Delta Air Lines DAL at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2016 Transportation Conference. Furthermore, JetBlue Airways’ annual meeting of shareholders on May 17 will draw attention.

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SOUTHWEST AIR (LUV): Free Stock Analysis Report
JETBLUE AIRWAYS (JBLU): Free Stock Analysis Report
DELTA AIR LINES (DAL): Free Stock Analysis Report
COPA HLDGS SA-A (CPA): Free Stock Analysis Report
ALASKA AIR GRP (ALK): Free Stock Analysis Report
UNITED CONT HLD (UAL): Free Stock Analysis Report
AMER AIRLINES (AAL): Free Stock Analysis Report
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