Tag Archives: NYSE:DAL

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello to all on this rather sunny Sunday here at the Worldwide Headquarters.

PlaneBusiness Banter is posted a bit early this week, as yours truly is headed West to the Valley of the Sun later today. It’s time for the 28th Annual ISTAT Conference and this year it is being held in Scottsdale, AZ. What is ISTAT you ask? It is the trade association for those who make their living leasing, buying, and selling airplanes. You know, those metal things we voluntarily put ourselves into from time to time.

I heard last week that there were already 1600+ attendees registered for the event this year. Amazing. I remember when I was on a panel discussion at the event in 1998 and they thought it was good when they had about 400 folks show up in Boca Raton.

It’s always one of our favorite industry events to attend. I’m looking forward to it.

Yes, there was an earthquake that hit Japan last week. We talk this week a bit about how that has affected not only the Japanese airline industry, but how major international airlines who fly to Japan have been affected as well.

We’re also talking about the latest DOT Air Travel Consumer numbers. January was a very good month for the airlines — and their passengers. Except for one glaring category. Guess which one that was. And yes, it’s directly related to the DOT’s Three-Hour Rule.

Airline stocks had a very good week last week, as investors shrugged off concerns over higher fuel prices — but yet another fare increase that American Airlines tried to put into place failed as the week ended.

Spirit Airlines is up to no good again — as the airline rolled out a “Charlie Sheen” inspired ad. Meanwhile Allegiant Air is proposing a “variable rate” fare which would be finalized on the day of departure — based on that day’s fuel cost.

We talk a lot about airplanes and Wi-Fi this week. Will Boeing announce a new twin-aisle narrow body at the Paris Air Show this year? Is Wi-Fi making some Honeywell instruments go haywire in Boeing 737s? Did Aircell just blow up Row 44′s chance at long-term survival?

Never a dull moment around here.

All that — and more — in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.

PlaneBusiness Banter Is Now Posted!

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Good afternoon earthlings. How is everyone today?

As of right now, things here at the Worldwide Headquarters are hunky-dory. However, as you can see by this lovely graphic, that is about to change. Sigh. Enough already.

This is how the weather map looks now.

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This is what is forecast for tomorrow morning.

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However, before the ice and snow arrives once again and we have to perhaps endure more rolling blackouts, it’s time to talk about this week’s issue of …PlaneBusiness Banter! Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

This week we take our usual in-depth look at the recent earnings calls and results from both Hawaiian Airlines and Allegiant Travel Co. Our overall assessment of both carrier’s results? Both airlines are in “transition” modes. Translation? I wouldn’t jump into either stock right now. Too many costs on the horizon.

We also talk about the Raymond James Growth Airline Conference, which was held last week in New York. The conference welcomed two newcomers to the fray — Delta Air Lines and Alaska Air Group.

As most of you know by now, Delta Air Lines took the opportunity to talk about its decision to reduce its capacity — a decision that was universally cheered by the Wall Street community.

However, as of today, we have not heard any news from any other airlines in regard to them doing the same — a situation that one airline analyst finds quite frustrating. So much so that he slashed his estimates on most of the legacy airlines last week as a result.

As Jamie Baker, analyst with JP Morgan wrote, given the rise in the price of fuel and the apparent “push back” that airlines may now be feeling as a result of a fare increase that fell apart last week, reductions in capacity are the answer. Sooner rather than later.

Speaking of those fare increases, while the across the board fare increase attempt sputtered last week, this morning United/Continental decided to stop abusing the leisure class, and instead they announced fare increases for both first class and business class passengers. The increases were matched almost immediately by competitors American and Delta Air Lines.

This fare increase has a much better chance of “sticking” because Southwest does not compete with the first class and business class fare buckets — so unlike last week when Southwest proved to be the spoiler, this increase will probably hold.

In other news, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) tacked on an amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill last week that would effectively kill the Essential Air Services program. Was this just a political play for headlines? Or is he serious?

On another front, the American Eagle ALPA MEC Chairman, Tony Gutierrez, issued a letter last week outlining where the regional carrier is in terms of its relationship to AMR. We had a number of AE-related emails this week and this is why. We talk about this a bit this week, and oh yes, public kudos to Tony. This letter that he wrote to the AE pilots was one of the most thorough letters of its type I’ve ever read from a union leader to his troops.

All this and more…in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello everyone.

This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. Subscribers can access it here.

This week we have a pretty good issue. Always takes us a week to get back in the groove after the holidays, and this week I think we have a little bit of something for everybody.

No question that the thrill of new metal hung over the industry last week as Delta Air Lines told its employees it is looking at new aircraft options. While Continental/United did not tell its employees that it too has been checking its bank balances and kicking some tires, industry sources confirm that yes, this is also the case.

Then there was that obscene order placed by IndiGo Airlines — based in India. It was, according to Airbus, the largest commercial aircraft order ever place. A whole slew of A320s, including a nice stable of the new “neo” flavor A320. You know, the ones with the more efficient engine.

But Airbus didn’t stop there. Oh no, they are clearly in their “Let’s Hammer The Boys at Boeing” mode as they also announced a new A320 order from Virgin America. One that also, conveniently, was signed at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 29. (I’m making up the part about the stroke of midnight, but I’m probably not that far off.)

The result of all this? Airbus looks to now have a nice solid start to its “neo” program, and oh yes, the Virgin order pushed Airbus past Boeing in the all-important testosterone-fueled exercise called, “Who sold more airplanes in “________.” Fill in the year.

For 2010, it looks like Airbus nosed out Boeing, 644 to 625.

Not surprisingly, given all this hoopla about new metal, Steve Hazy’s Air Lease Corp. filed its S-1 with the SEC last week. Translation: They are going to do an IPO.

Of course the American Airlines/GDS cat fight continued last week, with one very interesting new tidbit. In last week’s PlaneBusiness Banter I talked with subscribers about how I wondered if there was not more going on between American and ITA than met the eye.

Well, looks like I was right, as American announced a new deal with ITA (American is already a client) for a nice chunk of work with American’s new IT overhaul — which is being spearheaded by HP.

We update subscribers on all the latest GDS related news, and we also share a guest column this week from Montie Brewer, ex-Air Canada CEO. He gives us his take on the GDS/airline situation. (Yeah, I know. Bet you can’t guess which side of the fence he’s on.)

We also have a longish Market Review this week. We bring subscribers up to speed with the latest research reports from three analysts — Jamie Baker and Mark Streeter with JP Morgan; Glenn Engel with Bank of America and Dan McKenzie with Hudson Securities.

All three have different takes — and different things to say — and in the case of Glenn, he gives us part three of his ongoing research series in which he compares airlines on the basis of revenue and cost per plane. None of the usual RASM, CASM stuff. His first two reports last year covered revenues of the major and regional carriers. This latest report covers the costs of the major carriers.

Interesting way to look at the same numbers.

All this and more in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.

Airline Earnings Season Kicks Off With a Bang

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It’s earnings season once again.

Technically the third quarter earnings season for the airline industry opened yesterday as Hawaiian Airlines reported its numbers. But today mere mortals were definitely made aware that the third quarter number parade had started as three of the industry’s major league hitters reported their third quarter results.

Today US Airways, AMR, parent of American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines opened up the spreadsheets to the public.

Verdict? All three airlines beat previous forecast numbers.

Let’s take AMR first.

AMR posted a 3Q profit of $0.39, excluding special items. This was a small beat over the analyst’s expected $0.32 figure. That translates to a net profit of $143 million, as opposed to the forecast $110 million figure. This is the first profit for the airline in two years.

Best 60-second analysis of the AMR numbers we’ve read so far come from Jamie Baker and Mark Streeter, analysts with JP Morgan who wrote,

Does labor & lack of alliance immunity fully explain AMR’s margin woes? AMR management routinely cites lack of alliance immunity (no longer the case starting this month) and its labor cost disadvantage (gradually diminishing) as key factors of its relative underperformance. But is that all? To wit: AMR’s 3Q 670 bps EBIT deficiency to its Legacy peers (based on UAL expectations) hasn’t been this bad since 3Q02, and in fact has worsened in recent years…despite higher labor costs at DAL/NWA and no apparent immunized alliance momentum at SkyTeam and Star. We would suggest diminished corporate momentum versus a bulked-up Delta (and soon, United) as possible causes…suggesting AMR may choose to rethink its role in ongoing industry consolidation.”

US Airways reported earnings of $1.23 a share, excluding special items, or $243 million. This was just a bit better than the analyst consensus forecast of $1.17 a share.

Trivia note of the day? This quarter US Airways posted a 10% operating margin. As Jamie Baker with JP Morgan noted in his note about the results, this represents a third quarter record margin performance for the airline. And not just “the current version” of US Airways. Jamie noted that they went back through all the predecessor companies, or at least as far as they could go back, and they couldn’t find a better third quarter performance posted by the company — ever. (He did admit that they could not find the financial records for Piedmont or PSA though.)

Finally, Delta Air Lines reported a profit of $929 million, or $1.10 a share, excluding one-time items. This was just above the forecasted consensus figure of $0.94. The reason for the upside here? Better than expected revenues.

Tomorrow? Four more big guns strut their third quarter stuff as we’ll hear the third quarter numbers from Southwest Airlines, Continental/United, JetBlue and Alaska.

Don’t be surprised if we hear of more upside surprises tomorrow, especially after the Air Transport Association issued much better than expected September RASM performance numbers last night. The ATA announced that September RASM for those airlines that report to the ATA rose 14.6%, topping most analyst forecasts. That better than expected result clearly helped give a little last minute boost to the industry’s third quarter performance — as the results from these three airlines today confirmed.


AirTran and Allegiant Post Profits: Delta Air Lines Posts Loss; UAL and American Put on S&P Notice

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Another day, another round of airline earnings reports — and yet another notice from Standard & Poor’s that another airline is now on credit watch, with further rating downgrades a distinct possibility.

Allegiant Travel Company posted results late Tuesday while AirTran came flying in today. The one thing both airlines have in common? They both posted nice profits for the quarter.

Take these guys out and buy them a beer. They certainly deserve it.

Allegiant posted a profit of $23.8 million, up 801% from a year ago. The airline flies only MD-80s. I would have expected nothing less, considering the drop in the price of fuel.

But there is much more to the Allegiant story as those of you who hang out around here know. And in regard to their overall business model — which relies heavily on ancillary revenue — this quarter really didn’t disappoint as the airline saw its ancillary revenues per ASM increase 17%.

AirTran, which is currently running kind of a hybrid operation in terms of ancillary revenues and more demand based scheduling that has been so advantageous to Allegiant versus the more traditional legacy carrier business model turned in another good quarter today as well.

The airline posted a profit of $78.4 million or $0.56. This was a huge turnaround from last year, when the airline posted a loss of $14.8 million or $0.14.

Excluding unrealized derivative gains associated with the airline’s hedging activities, the airline posted a profit of $46.6 million or $0.34.

Interestingly, even here though, unlike at Allegiant, revenues were down. At Allegiant the airline saw operating revenues up 12.5%. on a 30.3% growth in ASMs no less.

AirTran posted a 12.9% drop in revenues. However, the airline also posted a whopping 27.3% drop in operating expenses. There is where the profit came from. ASMs here were down 7.6% for the quarter.

All said and done — a good quarter for both airlines. Especially considering the rest of the carnage we’ve seen reported from almost everybody else.

One late note that hit the wires after the close today. Standard and Poor’s said this afternoon that it had put UAL Corp., the parent of United Airlines on credit watch for a possible further downgrade.

The company’s S&P rating is already buried in the “junk” status, sitting at a “B -.”

S&P also warned that AMR, parent of American AIrlines is also now on the bad list as well, as it was also placed on the list for a potential downgrade. American currently is also rated “B -.”

We’ll look at the Delta Air Lines loss in another post.

Delta Air Lines And Pilots Agree to Reinstate ASAP Program

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This is great news.

As I had written in PlaneBusiness Banter in December, it did appear that Delta Air Lines and its pilot union were close to coming to an agreement which would see the airline reinstate its Aviation Safety Action Program.

This morning the airline announced just that.

From the airline’s release:

Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to reinstate its Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) covering pre-merger Delta pilots. The revised program mirrors an existing Northwest Airlines pilot ASAP program.”

In addition to the reinstated pilot ASAP, Delta has formal ASAP programs in place for its dispatchers and Technical Operations employees, and other safety reporting programs for flight attendants and ground employees. Delta also will continue ASAP programs currently covering pre-merger Northwest pilots, dispatchers and load planners, and other safety reporting programs for its other workgroups.

This means that almost 17,000 employees of the airline are now covered by some form of voluntary safety reporting system at Delta.

Excellent news. Just makes me want to do a little happy dance outside. Only problem is that if I did, I’d probably fall on the ice and break a limb. So — happy dance will be postponed until it’s a little warmer. (Yes, I’m at the Dallas-Ft.Worth branch office this week.)

We have two more major airlines and their pilots groups to beat into submission in regard to ASAP participation. And we all know which two airlines I am talking about. American Airlines and US Airways.

And no, as I told my PBB subscribers not too long ago, I’m not going to shut up until the last two stragglers are back in the fold. ASAP program participation is too valuable to all concerned.

Delta Air Lines’ Shares Go Boom On Negative Guidance

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While analysts continue to wax poetic about revenue forecasts for the industry in 2009, the market took a baseball bat to many of the major airline stocks today — after Delta Air Lines rolled out its disappointing numbers for the fourth quarter.

This morning Delta reported it lost $1.4 billion in the fourth quarter or $2.11 a share. This compared to a loss of $70 million or $0.18 a share for the previous year. This number included $904 million in charges related to employee equity awards that were a part of the Delta/Northwest deal.

Excluding special items, Delta lost $340 million or $0.50 a share. This was much worse that the $0.34 figure that had been forecast in the analyst consensus. However, Delta said that the analyst consensus figure did not take into consideration a 12 cent per share loss related to the “non-cash impact of purchase accounting.”

Okay.

But as bad as these numbers were, this was not the news that has pushed shares of Delta, and other airline stocks to the floor today.

The news that is doing that is the “forward guidance” comments the airline made today.

You know .. little things like….”unit revenue projection is much worse than what had been previously suggested.” When it was “previously suggested” …in December.

Traders don’t like to hear things like that. If those forecasts are that far off after only one month, that is not a good omen.

As a result, shares of Delta are taking a sharp dive today, down 20% as I write this, trading at around 7.95.

And because what affects one major airline is assumed to affect all of them to one degree or another, shares of US Airways are also getting punished, as they are down 17%, trading at 6.36. Shares of AMR are not exempt, as they are now trading down 13%, hovering around the 6.27 mark.

Shares of Continental are not being left out of the carnage today either. Shares here are now trading down about 16%, at 14.17, while shares of United are trading down 11%, around 10.85.