Tag Archives: airline earnings

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello to everyone on what is a gloriously beautiful day here in the DFW Metromess.

Today I bring you another luxuriously long issue of PlaneBusiness Banter posted for your reading pleasure. Or as someone said to me last week at a conference I was speaking at, “I LOVVEE these issues. It gives me something to read during my entire flight!”

Yes, well. I’m so happy we can be of help.

Earnings season is finally winding down. We talk about three airlines in depth this week – Air Canada, WestJet and SkyWest. We also have earnings summaries for the last two reportees for the quarter — Republic Holdings and Pinnacle. We’ll talk more about them in next week’s issue.

But hey, there was a whole lot going on this last week besides earnings.

Shares of AMR, parent of American Airlines, had a great week, after Jamie Baker at JP Morgan Chase picked the stock as his current favorite. Kind of a no-brainer considering how badly beaten up the stock is — compared to its peers. According to Jamie, the company should start to see some improvement to its lagging margin performance as the British Airways joint venture kicks into gear. He said a lot of other stuff as well. More in this week’s issue.

On the labor front, the flight attendants at Delta Air Lines just said “No” to union representation last week. After 16 years and three elections, the Association of Flight Attendants couldn’t get it done. The AFA said it is going to protest the election on grounds the airline interfered.

Negotiations have clearly bogged down between the pilot unions at United and Continental. Sounds like pay scales for the United Boeing 747 is a major sticking point but that sticking point runs parallel to the other bigger problem — seniority.

As I say this week, you guys should not attempt to negotiate a contract unless the seniority agreement has been completed.

Meanwhile, in Dallas, the Allied Pilots Association has hired a professional negotiator. I think I said the union needed to do this about four years ago. Glad they finally took my advice.

The man they hired, Seth Rosen, is affiliated with the Air Line Pilots Association.

Interesting. I sense a thaw developing in relations between the two pilot unions.

Some notable tidbits from across the pond this week as well, including the fact that privately-held Virgin Atlantic confirmed it has hired Deutsche Bank to look at its “strategic opportunities.” This comes as reports also say Sir Richard may be ready to sell his interest in the airline. That would make sense. He would never be able remain at the helm as he is now if the airline were to be sold. He could never accept not being in charge.

But the most disturbing things we talk about this week have nothing to do with unions or earnings.

The first one — the uncontained failure of a Rolls-Royce engine on a Qantas A380 last week and the fact the airline says it has found other A380 Rolls engines with unacceptable levels of leaking oil.

Not good.

The second one — my first experience with the new TSA “extended” pat-down procedure.

Not good either.

More feedback on the TSA’s changed procedures from yet another pilot union this week — and we couldn’t agree more.

Speaking of “more,” — all this and more in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.

Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

Airline Earnings Season Kicks Off With a Bang


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.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1.jpg We may be a little late, but hey, we made it.

I know. I can’t wait to get my tarmac rule violation bill in the mail this week from the DOT.

Hello all 😉

This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now, finally, posted. If you read my previous post here you’ll get the skinny on why we are posting on Wednesday night. An addendum to that post: while all the other problems were apparently fixed, now I cannot send email on my planebusiness.com account using Verizon.

At this point, I don’t care. I can take up that battle tomorrow.

In the meantime, a head’s up for PBB subscribers. We will be posting another issue of PBB either later this week or the first of next week. Yes, I was supposed to go on vacation yesterday, but because of all this Verizon mess, we were unable to complete all the material we wanted to include in this final issue for the summer.

So — the mojitos have been put on hold. The box of mint is still in the refrigerator.

We’ll be back for one more issue before we formally depart.

In the meantime however, we have a lot to talk about in this issue, including in-depth earnings reports on Republic, Hawaiian, and SkyWest. We talk a lot about the SkyWest/ExpressJet deal, and there were also more details given about SkyWest’s involvement with Air Mekong in the airline’s earnings call. We’ll update you on all that as well.

Cathay Pacific also reported earnings last week — and the airline did very, very well. More on those, in addition to the scoop on the newest low fare Asian airline — a JV between Thai and Tiger.

DAE has apparently told Airbus and Boeing that it is canceling 50 aircraft that had been included as part of the company’s eye-popping $27 billion order spending spree at the Dubai Air Show two years ago. Reality has apparently come to the Middle East. Or at least one part of it. There are still all those mind-numbing Emirates aircraft orders out there.

We give you the rundown on which airlines shone in the second quarter in terms of break even load factor and operating margins. And we’ll talk about those that posted rather worrisome numbers.

One hint: The same two airlines finished last and next to last in both metrics. Who were those two airlines?

And what about the Canadian airline Jazz? Why does it think it’s okay to report its quarterly numbers — absent any mention of RPMs?

We have a pretty good idea why — do you?

As always, this is just a part of this week’s issue. All this and more — in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter. Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello all.

Live and direct from the PlaneBusiness Worldwide Steaming Hot Headquarters, we bring you a 150 plus-page issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.

Yes, this is, without a doubt, the mother of all earnings issues.

We have full transcripts and PlaneBusiness Banter earnings summaries for Southwest Airlines, AirTran, JetBlue, Alaska Air Group and Allegiant Travel this week.

Not only that but we give you the numbers that were just reported from Air France/KLM, Lufthansa, British Airways, ANA and Singapore Airlines.


All of this plus our take on the more “newsworthy” topics from the past week including the meltdown at Mexicana (and no, we’re not talking about the FAA’s downgrade of the Mexican aviation safety rating) and the showdown between the pilots and management at Philippine Airlines.

So what do you think? Do you think the pilots and flight attendants at Mexicana should have taken up management’s offer to buy the airline?

Or — should they have cut their pay and benefits essentially in half?

As we were posting this issue, the news came down: Mexicana has filed for bankruptcy.

One thing that will do — it will stop airline leasing companies from taking their aircraft back. Apparently at least three of the airline’s aircraft had already been snatched back by their owners.

Aside from all this turmoil, we then have the latest attempt by the U.S. government to “make the airline industry a better and safer place.”

Yes, from the same folks who brought us the Three-Hour Tarmac rule, the Senate and the House passed a bill last week that will see the minimum number of flight hours required for a regional airline pilot position jump to 1500.

Needless to say, I can understand why members of Congress want to look like they are making the industry a safer place — but is a 1500 hour flight time minimum the way to do it?

One of our regular contributors gives us his take on the potential ramifications of this legislation in this week’s issue.

One thing that is a constant in this industry is that it always has a lot of debt.

But while most of the airline’s debt ratings are in the “junk” category, shrewd investors know that investing in airline debt can be quite profitable.

This week I assemble the latest credit and debt comments on the major airlines from Mark Streeter — the man who does this for a living for JPMorgan Chase. I think Mark is the sharpest guy on the Street when it comes to airline debt.

As for airline stocks — a Foreign Flyer took the first place nod last week in terms of gains. Overall, it was a good strong week for the sector.

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

Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

Mega Earnings Issue of PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted! — United Airlines Tague and Mikells To Leave

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Hello everyone.

This week we have a 100-plus page earnings issue of PlaneBusiness Banter for you to peruse at your leisure. And yes, at that length, it should more than take up all of your leisure time for the week. Have no fear. Next week we’ll give you another one!

This week we take in-depth looks at the recent earnings results posted by American Airlines, US Airways, United Airlines, Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

This coming week the PlaneBusiness microscope will be trained on the 2Q results of JetBlue, Alaska, AirTran, Allegiant and Southwest Airlines — which is scheduled to report its second quarter numbers on Thursday.

A couple of quick observations from the group we took a look at this week.

One, even before the formal announcement was issued this morning, it had been clear for some time that United Airlines President John Tague was not a member of the executive transition team that was going to stay with the “new” United. That fact was also crystal clear as you listened to the airline’s earnings call last week.

This morning, the airline formally announced that John, Kathryn Mikells, Graham Atkinson, and Rosemary Moore would not be staying with the “new” United.

Zane Rowe, current CFO at Continental will remain, but Pete McDonald will come over from United as COO. As for the rest of the top tier execs, including those heading up marketing, communications and HR, all will come from Continental. And of course, Jeff Smisek will be CEO.

We told you so. From the beginning.

Back to earnings.

Of this group, there was clearly one airline that posted earnings above and beyond — that airline was US Airways. In fact, while the airline’s numbers were great as they were, the airline would have seen their EPS figure come in 8 cents higher — had the airline chosen to classify a refund from the TSA as regular income — not a special item. (As some airlines chose to do, including United Airlines.)

The airline posted one great quarter. On a number of fronts. It managed to stash a nice chunk of cash as well.

As for United and Continental, it’s really kind of pointless to talk about them as viable standalones at this point because the merger looms in the background. In terms of potential stock investments — I’d say all bets are off here until after the actual merger is much further along.

Delta Air Lines, which was the subject of our last non-PBB post here in PlaneBuzz had a nice quarter, and yes, the comments it made about guidance and its fourth quarter increase in capacity were way overblown.

All of that capacity hysteria was so yesterday.

Good quarter for the folks in Atlanta.

And finally, American Airlines trudged out its loss for the quarter last week as well.

We are once again putting American Airlines on the official PlaneBusiness Titanic Watch this week. The airline announced a number of executive changes this last week — but I’m not sure they are going to be enough to get the airline out of its self-created sinkhole.

More on all that in this week’s issue.

We also wrap up the news from Farnborough, and we talk about the legal move US Airways announced Monday, as they try to attempt to break the seniority fight log jam that exists between its pilots.

And finally — yes, we talk about the ongoing Tarmac Tales. Consulting studies, DOT rants, and all.

All this, and more — including a shot of the new Virgin Atlantic livery. Woo hoo! (We have to do something to celebrate Sir Richard’s 60th birthday.)

Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted

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Greetings to one and all.

Let it be known that yes, the second quarter earnings season for the airline industry is now officially upon us. Before the week is over, nine major airlines will have reported earnings.

Yes, count them. NINE.

Kicking off this quarter’s festivities was Delta Air Lines. And boy, did the airline make a scene. While the airline posted its biggest quarterly profit since 2000, analysts and traders were none to happy with the airline’s guidance comments, and its fourth quarter capacity forecast.

While we don’t do our formal transcript review and earnings summary for Delta in this week’s issue, I do talk in detail about what the airline reported and give PlaneBusiness Banter subscribers a cross-section of comments from a number of analysts who cover the stock.

This is also a big week for those who love airplanes and the men who like to buy them.

Yes, it is time for Farnborough. I talk about the big deals that were announced Monday — and update you on just how well capitalized Steve Hazy’s new leasing venture is. Answer: Very.

Don’t look now but Congress is sniffing around airline fees. Not only does Congress want to make sure that passengers know exactly what they are going to have to pay for when they book that flight, Congress is also now making noise about how it wants to start taxing those fees that passengers are clearly aware of.

Remember — fees are not taxable, whereas fares are hit with a 7.5% tax.

Things are so dire in Washington that 7.5% looks like a potential luscious low-hanging fruit.

We had another airline analyst pick up her bags and move to new environs over the last two weeks. Helane Becker, formerly with Jesup and Lamont, is now with Dahlman Rose and this week she issued a slew of new coverage on the sector.

Finally, a big thank you to our subscribers who have experienced some weird goings-on with the site the past two weeks. Page numbers have been screwy, log-in credentials have changed, and I just realized tonight, for example, that our headline page on the planebusiness.com site somehow got changed to one from June 28. Nice. I’m sure some of you were wondering what planet we were on.

No planet. Just our own small equivalent of IT cutover hell.

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

PlaneBusiness Banter subscribers can access this week’s issue here. (Note, that is a new link folks. Please bookmark it as such.)

Delta Reports Earnings And Airline Stocks Go Splat


Delta Air Lines reported earnings this morning, the first airline to report earnings for the second quarter.

While the headline numbers for the airline’s results look quite good on the surface — airline stocks began to drop after the numbers were released and they have yet to get up again.

Why is this the case — if Delta reported such a large profit?

If you are a PlaneBusiness Banter subscriber, you might have a good idea. As I said three weeks ago, I think a lot of this recent giddyness concerning the “return” of airline revenues is, I believe, on shaky ground.

Yes, no question that the second quarter numbers should be good across the board for the sector — with one glaring exception. The only major airline that will probably post a loss for the quarter is AMR, parent of American Airlines.

But as I talk about in this week’s PBB, we are now seeing a number of economic metrics that are pointing toward a recessionary recovery in the U.S. that is running out of steam.

Take those developments, coupled with the fact the airline industry is now looking at the start of a traditionally slow period in September — throw on results from Delta that disappointed on the revenue side — and poof. A perfect recipe for an airline sector selloff.

Now you know.

Airline Pre-Earnings Whispers Continue to Sound Positive


Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas.

Or something like that.

Thanks to a wickedly strange website entitled Sketchy Santas for today’s visual. If you have a warped sense of humor like I do, go on over and take a peek. I’ll use a couple more of them here before we say goodbye to the Christmas season. I mean, after all, a little warped sense of humor is good for us all this time of year — yes?

Speaking of this time of year — it’s the time of the year when those folks who run the airlines start talking. To analysts. About their respective fourth quarter results that will be finalized in a little more than two weeks.

Today Bill Greene with Morgan Stanley wrote,

“We expect near-term data points and commentary to excite investors about the on-going airline recovery, pushing potential concerns of an anemic 2010 to the background, for the time being.”

Oh my. Let’s pop some champagne corks. What do you think?

Bill went on to talk more specifically as he added that AMR now expects fourth quarter mainline PRASM to be down more or less 5% year-over-year. This is better than Bill’s previous 7% estimate. The airline also said this week that close-in bookings continue to be strong.

US Airways said this week that it continues to see revenue improving “rapidly.” The airline said this week that corporate revenues could be up by as much as 10% year-over-year in 2010. Delta expects strong demand trends in 2010 and fourth quarter guidance updates imply better than expected top-line growth and United Airlines aid this week that it also continues to see improvement in corporate and premium cabin bookings.

Yesterday analysts Jamie Baker and Mark Streeter with JP Morgan issued a note in which they talked about both stock and debt updates.

They also talked about the positive comments from Delta and US Airways as did Bill. JP Morgan lifted its fourth quarter estimates for both Delta Air Lines and US Airways based on the latest updates from both carriers.

On the debt side, Mark Streeter gave all of us some good background on the fact that Delta Air Lines did also offer year-end liquidity estimates that were lower than those previously distributed this week.

Is this a bad thing? Not according to Mark.

According to Mark,

Delta offered year-end liquidity guidance of $5.1 billion (versus our prior estimate for YE09 of $5.4 billion), or about $700 million lower than the $5.8 billion total liquidity as of 30-Sept-09. Given a seasonal air traffic liability shift of $800 million-$1 billion (per management), the net burn is deceiving. As we have discussed, Delta has reduced 2010 debt maturities by 55% from $3.4 billion prior to recent capital markets transactions (mainly secured first and second lien notes and a secured aircraft EETC deal) to $1.5 billion.

In our Airline Credit Outlook 2010 webcast, we reiterate our bullish view on airline credit (Overweight) and our specific opinion that Delta is our favorite legacy airline credit from a relative value perspective. We recommend Delta A (offered at 400bp+) and B tranche (9%+ yield) EETCs basically across the board (As for HG and HY investors, Bs for HY investors only) as well as the Delta first (9.5% bonds yielding 8.5%) and second lien (12.25% bonds yielding 13%) backed by Delta’s Pacific operations. On the situation in Japan, AMR has the most to lose and Delta the most to gain if JAL defects from OneWorld to SkyTeam.

On the other hand, US-Japan Open Skies remains a long-term wild card from the perspective of how appraisers and the market will value Delta’s Pacific collateral. Regardless, we expect Delta to maintain a large, significant presence in Asia and Narita specifically (and perhaps Haneda over time). Therefore, the short relative duration of the 9.5%s (due Sep-14) and the 12.25%s (due Mar-15) coupled with high current yields relative to credit ratings (credit ratings that should INCREASE over time given our forecasted improvement in Delta’s credit metrics against our bullish industry recovery thesis) forms the basis of our favorable opinion on these unique bonds.”

Yes, that man is still bullish on Delta Debt.

The Earnings Just Keep on Coming…


During weeks like this, I’m not really sure if I should even get out of bed in the morning.

Considering we are enjoying a nice gentle Fall rain here in the DFW Metroplex this morning, that’s even more incentive not to get up.

Alas — duty calls.

Two days, and we have now had six airlines have report earnings so far this week — with more to come. The rundown goes like this: Continental, UAL, parent of United Airlines, AirTran, Allegiant, Hawaiian, and AMR, parent of American Airlines.

Any surprises in the results that have rolled out so far this week?

No real “surprises” but a few things that do warrant some discussion.

One — United Airlines posted pretty good numbers for the quarter. Excluding special items, the airline posted a loss of $0.43 a share. This was much better than the consensus forecast of loss of $0.94. The airline posted better than expected results both on the revenue and the cost side. The airline posted a 2.8% operating margin. Granted, that kind of margin would make people in other industries weep. But in this industry, it might end up being one of the better performances for the quarter — compared to its peers.

AirTran? No real surprises here. The airline posted a good quarter. Forecast was for the airline to post a profit of 8 cents a share. That’s what the airline did. It also posted a very nice 5.1% operating margin — 13.5 points better than third quarter 2008.

Dovetailing with the upgrade note on AirTran issued by JP Morgan analysts Jamie Baker and Mark Streeter late Sunday, the airline did, in fact, post a better operating margin than Southwest this quarter. Southwest posted a 4.8 operating margin (excluding special items.)

Allegiant? Another great quarter by the airline. The airline reported a profit of $0.68, which was better than the Street estimate of $0.63. The best news from the airline’s call to me was the fact that the airline’s new service in Los Angeles seems to be off to a tremendous start. The airline said that July operating margins for the new service, which just started in May, were already pretty much up to the airline’s system average. This compares to other markets, which have usually taken as long as two years to hit the same levels.

Continental reported this morning, as did AMR.

Continental reported a net loss of $18 million or $0.14. Excluding $20 million in special charges, the airline posted a profit of 2 cents a share.

Analysts had expected the airline to post a loss of 6 cents a share.

As for AMR, parent of American Airlines — the news wasn’t nearly as positive. The airline didn’t come anywhere near a profit for the third quarter.

The airline posted a net loss this morning of $359 million or $1.26. Excluding special items, the airline posted a loss of $265 million or $0.93. Consensus had the airline expected to post a loss of $0.95. Operating margin? Excluding special items, a negative 2.5%.

We’re off to listen to the calls from both CAL and AMR. Behave yourself while I’m gone.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted

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This week’s mega-earnings issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. I think this one has set a new record at around 100 pages. Hey, I like to give you lots to think about.

This week I look at five airlines that recently reported second quarter earnings in-depth: AirTran; Alaska Air Group; Delta Air Lines; United Airlines; and JetBlue.

We also have earnings summaries now posted for ExpressJet, Republic Holdings, and Hawaiian Airlines on the site for PBB subscribers.

So what did we like or didn’t like about the earnings from this crop of airlines?

It was nice to have three honest-to-god profits to talk about this week. AirTran had an excellent quarter, Alaska was no slouch either, and JetBlue also had a nice quarter — although their profits were not as hefty as those posted by either AirTran or Alaska.

Then there is Delta. The airline continues to slog through some very costly underwater fuel hedges. And of course the airline is being hit hard on the international front as demand has simply gone into hiding for not only Delta but all the U.S. carriers who fly internationally.

And then there is United Airlines. CFO Kathryn Mikells was hammered in the airline’s call about the “L” word — yes, that would be liquidity.

But she retained her poise and kept telling those analysts that they were asking “terrific” questions.

Meanwhile, down in Atlanta, Delta’s Richard Anderson was called out by yours truly for his excessive use of corporate speak. And if I hear the word “synergy” one more time, I’m going to go stark raving mad.

But of course, the big news of last week was the news that Southwest Airlines had made a bid on Frontier Airlines — as part of that airline’s bankruptcy auction process.

Southwest is now burning the midnight oil, doing their due diligence, as final bids need to be in the hands of the court by Aug. 10. (Yes, look at your calendar. That’s next Monday.)

All this and much, much more, including details on the $1 billion cobbled-together financing deal that Air Canada announced this week — The Patron Saint of Failing Airlines Lives! (We are referring of course to GECAS)

All that and more in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter. Subscribers can access your issue here.