PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted

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Someone sent me a note last week and told us that last week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter was over 100 pages when they printed it out. Heh. Well, this week’s is longer than last week’s issue was, so I have no idea how long this one will be when you hit the print button.

And no, I don’t own stock in Staples. Or Office Max. Much less Weyerhaeuser.

But one thing’s for sure. We had a lot to talk about this week.

Yes, once again, the bulk of this week’s issue is about earnings. This week we take a close look at the results posted by: AirTran, Alaska Air Group, JetBlue, Continental and Hawaiian Airlines.

This was a very interesting group of airlines because they all are somewhat “different.” This wasn’t the same as talking about American, United, Delta and Continental, for instance. In fact, Continental Airlines was more or less the odd-man out in this group.

That’s not to say that in terms of several measures that Continental did not turn in a third quarter that was better than its peers. But in listening to the airline’s call, it would be a huge stretch to say that the folks at Continental were happy with the airline’s results.

This was not the case however, with the four other airlines.

And especially not at Alaska Air Group, which turned in a drop-dead gorgeous quarter.

I’m serious.

The company, which is parent to Alaska Airlines and Horizon, has been a favorite of mine for years.

This quarter — the company turned in one of the best, if not the best, quarters of the industry.

JetBlue was no slouch this quarter either, as its flat rate $599 “All You Can Jet” promotion it rolled out in August clearly gave the airline a huge boost to its September revenues. The airline has, in the past, made no secret about how weak its September performance is. This year — things were different because of some out-of-the-box thinking on the part of the airline. Great idea.

AirTran also posted a great quarter. In case you are not aware – AirTran took over the rights to use the title of “Lowest Cost” airline a while ago. This quarter it proved its point again.

Hawaiian had a good quarter as well — as the boys in Paradise continue to make money while the Smaller Frys continue to duke out it out in terms of interisland business.

Two metrics neither you nor I heard about on any of the earnings calls this quarter were two metrics that are near and dear to my heart.. Those metrics are: break-even load factor and operating margin, including interest expense.

This week we take the list of those airlines that have reported so far (which includes all the major players for the exception of the two north of the border) and look at how they stack up against these two measures.

The results were surprising for a couple of reasons — with the main reason being that one airline finished with the highest break-even load factor for the quarter and it also posted the biggest negative operating margin — when interest was added to the pot.

Anyone know which airline that was?

Subscribers can find out by clicking here to access this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.