Monthly Archives: October 2011

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello everyone. This week in PlaneBusiness Banter we are talking earnings. And more earnings. And more earnings.

This week’s 150-plus page issue contains our earnings call reviews for American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Air Group and Southwest Airlines.

To sum up? We now know American has no more unencumbered aircraft (all the furniture has now, officially, been burned), one analyst believes the company is pushing pilots to agree to an expanded domestic codesharing agreement so that American can enter into such an agreement with US Airways, and yet another analyst thinks the airline’s liquidity situation is inevitably going to lead to a bankruptcy filing — probably in 2012.

Meanwhile, American Eagle and its pilots came to terms on a new eight-year tentative agreement last week.

Southwest Airlines‘ earnings call was …long. The airline’s financial results are…confusing. They are going to be that way for probably another couple of quarters — until the merger with AirTran passes the year-over-year comp mark. Meanwhile the airline’s costs are higher than we’d like to see but revenues were good.

Many of you still appear to be confused as to whether the airline lost money or made money. We explain all of that, and we give you CFO Laura Wright’s dissertation on the airline’s hedge situation. In full.

Laura deserves a medal for that performance.

Alaska Air Group had another strong quarter. The airline now does appear to be that very rare breed. Quarter in, quarter out, the airline continues to produce exceptional margins while running a very well managed operation.

Pinch me. Is this company really operating an airline?

Hawaiian Airlines also had a very good third quarter. The airline has taken a number of risks over the last couple of years, in an attempt to diversify its flying mix. This quarter’s results prove the airline’s strategic plan is working.

A heads up for institutional investors — management members from both Alaska Air Group and Hawaiian Airlines will be in New York in November for investor days. I’d recommend you go and talk to the teams from both airlines.

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

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PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Let’s try this again. It seems that our blog editor chose to eat my earlier post this evening. You guys know the drill. This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted.

This week we talk a lot about American Airlines. Again. We also talk about the craziness going on in Europe where it truly is “Let’s Make a Deal” season. Aer Lingus, British Airways, Etihad, Virgin Atlantic, bmi. It’s a mad, mad, mad world out there.

Airline stocks had a great week last week — and one stock in particular shone the brightest. That stock was Spirit Airlines. The airline announced killer traffic numbers last week and shares took off in the low fare carrier as a result.

JetBlue announced its CFO, Ed Barnes, had resigned, effective immediately, after the close of trading Tuesday. We never like to hear that a CFO has resigned, effective immediately. In addition, given the timing of the news, just one week before the airline announces third quarter earnings, you have to believe this was a board of directors decision.

The DOT reported its August Airline Consumer Travel Report last week. We dissect the numbers and let you know who had a good month and who didn’t. Hint: JetBlue had an awful month — the result of the August storms that raked the East Coast. But US Airways and Continental Airlines both saw their performances slip for the month as well.

Of course the big news this week is earnings. Hawaiian Airlines kicked off the third quarter earnings season Tuesday with better than expected numbers, and Wednesday, American Airlines will report its third quarter loss. As has been the case for more quarters than we can remember, American should be the only major U.S. airline to post a loss for the quarter.

Thursday we hear the profit news from Alaska Air Group and Southwest Airlines.

As always, we talk about all of this — and much more — in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello earthlings. This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. In this week’s issue we take a follow-up look at the problem known as AMR. After our look at the airline’s Monday Meltdown last week, this week we give you more insight from an assortment of Wall Street analysts. The upshot? Bankruptcy is not going to save the airline, but at the same time, the airline does not appear to be anywhere near a filing.

The airline also announced cuts in capacity for the late fall and winter months. This news was probably the best news American Airlines could have uttered. Analysts liked the reductions. The airline says they are not a result of falling demand — but of higher fuel prices. Not certain, but the airline’s continued exodus of top-tier pilots just might have something to do with the airline pulling back on the reins as well.

Other airline stocks suffered as a result of AMR’s drop last week. US airline stocks were clearly the laggards in a week that saw the the rest of the markets do fairly well.

NextGen. FAA. Congress. Department of Transportation Inspector General.

Send chills up your spine yet? It should.

Last week the FAA and its project management of the NextGen project got raked over the coals by the DOT IG. But as we talk about this week in PBB, how can the FAA be expected to manage such a complex project when it can’t even count on having money to pay for paper clips from day to day — a result of how the agency is funded (or is not funded) by Congress?

Meanwhile, the European Court of Justice gave the EU a huge thumbs up last week on its plan to charge airlines around the world for their greenhouse gas emissions. Needless to say the airline industry is not happy about this.

Southwest Airlines’ CEO Gary Kelly talked to Bloomberg last week and he started throwing around some huge revenue numbers that he says the airline can produce — as a result of its AirTran acquisition. Only one problem. I’ve been talking to a number of industry people who don’t think he can.

What do you think?

Which reminds me. This week you, our subscribers, get a chance to tell me what the next airline merger will be. That’s right. Sharpen up those pencils and send me your two cents on just which merger could be next on our radar. And why.

All this and much, much 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. No surprise that this week’s issue is headlined by the events from Monday. We talk a lot about the AMR Monday Meltdown. We give you the facts. Then we give you our opinion.

Before shares of AMR went on their freefall Monday, there was good news for another airline last week. A US District Court Judge awarded US Airways a preliminary injunction against its pilot union, USAPA. You may recall the airline asked for the injunction the end of July, as it claimed the pilots were engaged in an organized attempt to “slow down” or disrupt the airline. Apparently Judge Conrad agreed.

We also talk a bit more about Stelios and his plans to start up a new airline. Last week we quoted one European airline analyst who said he thought the rumblings were merely Stelios’ latest attempt to extract more funds from the easyJet management.

That’s not what we heard this week. We let you in on all the details as to why the founder of easyJet may just be serious about a new start-up.

Travelport narrowly avoided a trip to bankruptcy court last week, as parent company Blackstone managed to convince debt holders to accept an extension. However that extension came at a price. Blackstone was forced to pay the highest interest rate paid so far this year for a debt restructuring, according to Bloomberg.

It’s hell when a scheduled IPO never happens and a company has a horrific LBO overhang. And that is exactly where Travelport is, as parent company Blackstone was forced last spring to pull Travelport’s expected IPO. Meanwhile, Travelport’s market share of the GDS market continues to shrink.

Emirates is coming to town. The airline announced two new U.S. destinations last week, and outlined a list of other U.S. destinations that are on the airline’s hit list.

Allegiant Airlines announced a couple of strange moves last week as the airline announced it was going to start flying between Phoenix (Mesa) and Las Vegas, and it announced it was pulling out of Long Beach completely. Wait, wasn’t the reason they were in Long Beach in the first place because the airline wanted to launch its Hawaii flights from there?

We talk about third quarter airline stock performance this week as well. A hint — we don’t have a lot to talk about as only one airline stock posted a gain for the quarter. One.

As for last week, the results on Wall Street weren’t quite that bad, but it wasn’t anything to get excited about.

As usual, all this and more — in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter .

Today’s Market Sell-Off of Airline Sector

A couple of observations on today’s black day for airline stocks.

One, the markets are in panic mode in general today — as fears of a continued economic slowdown shake the Street. This is not just an airline sector sell-off, it’s a general market fear-driven sell-off fueled by continuing concerns over the situation in Europe.

Two, the general market assumption is that if the economy goes south, so will airline revenues.

Three, in the case of AMR, the situation is particularly acute, because investors know the airline has lagged in revenue performance, and the airline is the most cash restrained of all the major airlines.

Four, fears of an impending AMR bankruptcy have been rumbling around and picking up traction for the last 30-45 days. Increasing numbers of retiring pilots do not help the situation, nor do continued analyst concerns over the airline’s long-term liquidity health.

Looking at the latest sector numbers for today, it looks as if shares of other airline stocks that were hammered earlier in the day into double-digit declines have bounced back a bit, while the volume of AMR shares traded continues to boggle the mind. Shares of AMR have climbed back a little bit since trading was resumed. Now shares are only down 30%, trading at around 2.07. Earlier in the day shares were down to 1.75.

Not 35%.

The current trend is up, not down.

AMR Bankruptcy Fears Take Shares of American Airlines Hostage


As I wrote recently in PlaneBusiness Banter, a funny thing happens when a company begins to show signs of failing. Often times, the state of the company may not be as bad as outsiders perceive, but one but one, things can begin to happen that accelerate the perception that the company is in trouble.

Once that process begins, it can be very difficult to reverse course.

I think that is what we have going on with AMR, parent of American Airlines.

Late last Friday the company announced that another 129 pilots had opted to retire, effective Oct. 1. While that data point in and of itself is not indicative of anything, other than the fact the pilots want to lock in their benefit levels at stock prices that are higher than they are now — that is not how Wall Street is interpreting the news. Wall Street thinks this much-higher-than-normal exodus is a negative “insider sentiment” as to the airline’s financial situation.

This morning, while the entire industry has taken a dive across the board, Wall Street investors have dumped shares of AMR much harder and much faster.

So hard and fast that trading had to be halted in shares of the stock.

Prior to the halt, shares had slipped down more than 20%. After trading was resumed, the sell-off continued at an even faster clip. Shares have been down as much as 38%.

As of this posting (12:48 CDT) almost three times the average daily volume of AMR shares have already been traded, and the stock is sitting at $1.92, down 35% on the day.