February Traffic Numbers Send Airline Investors Fleeing


That huge sucking sound you hear coming from the airline industry today is the sound of airline stock prices falling off the ledge.

We only thought airline stocks had been hammered prior to this week.

When last we looked here are just a handful of the declines we were looking at: US Airways, down 16%, trading at 1.99; Alaska Air Group down 17%, trading at 15.04; Continental down 13%, trading at 7.31; Delta down 10%, trading at 4.01; Hawaiian down 13%, trading at 2.25; JetBlue down 11%, trading at 2.86; Southwest down 4.41, trading at 4.99; and United Airlines, down 11%, trading at 3.75.


This week the winged ones began to report their traffic numbers for the month of February, and folks, even taking into consideration that there was one more day in the month of February last year — it was a leap year — the numbers coming out this week have scared the bejesus out of airline stock traders and investors.

How bad have the traffic numbers been? Here is the latest rundown.

(RPMs are revenue passenger miles, ASMs are available seat miles. RPMs represent traffic, while ASMs represent an airline’s capacity.)

American Airlines RPMs down 13.5% ASMs down 10.1% Load factor down 2.9 points to 73.9%

American Eagle RPMs down 14.1% ASMs down 9.1% Load factor down 3.8% to 65.2%.

US Airways   RPMs down 9.3% ASMs down 9.3% Load factor steady at 77.2%

Delta Air Lines RPMs down 11% ASMs down 7.8% Load factor down 2.7 points to 74.3%

United Airlines RPMs down 15.2% ASMs down 14% Load factor down 1 point to 73.2%

Southwest Airlines RPMs down 6% ASMs down 6.5% Load factor was up 0.5% to 69.1%

Continental Airlines   RPMs down 13.2% ASMs down 8.9% Load factor fell 3.5 points to 72.9%

AirTran RPMs down 13.6% ASMs down 9.1% Load Factor down 3.9 points to 74.2%

JetBlue   RPMs down 8.3% ASMs down 5.5% Load Factor down 2.3 points to 74.5%

Then of course there is PlaneBusiness favorite Allegiant Air. The airline continues to buck the trend, as it reported that its RPMs increased 9.8% in February, while the airline increased capacity by only 5.2%. This resulted in a nice 3.8 point increase in load factor to 90.2%.

Other than renegade Allegiant — the two airlines that clearly did the best job in February at managing capacity reductions with declines in traffic were Southwest and US Airways.

But as we see today, that has clearly not helped the stock price of either airline.