Tag Archives: airline traffic

May Airline Traffic and RASM Out-Takes

American Airlines Cancellations

This week the U.S. domestic carriers have been in the throes of the usual first-week-of-the-month traffic and RASM reporting ritual.

And what have we found out from the various press releases full of mind-numbing numbers?

I think Gary Chase, analyst with Barclays started the week off on the right tone as he wrote, “We think the market was largely ready for numbers as bad as CAL posted last night, even if we had hoped for better.”

Continental reported at the beginning of the week that it estimates the H1N1 scare cost the airline at least $30 million in revenue. This was more than many analysts had expected, and was clearly a big factor in the airline reporting that consolidated PRASM for May was down between 19.5% and 20.5%. Mainline only was down between 19% and 20%.

Friday morning Bill Greene, analyst with Morgan Stanley issued a note in which he said, “Recent, May traffic reports highlight the severity of the supply/demand differential plaguing the industry with RASM falling ~20% YoY at both CAL and LCC. Surprisingly, managements continue to bet on a 4Q recovery, as evidenced by the sequential acceleration in capacity growth between 3Q and 4Q09.However, even if a rebound does materialize, we worry that higher oil prices obstruct profit-improvement at many airline.”

Looking towards June, as I wrote in this week’s PBB, I am not hearing much of anything positive from the airline folks I am talking to — in terms of demand uptick.

Kevin Crissey, analyst withUBS wrote this week, “Airline financials are troubling, particularly with fuel prices rising.” He continued, “We are concerned about the revenue outlook after May,” said Crissey, who forecasts that June traffic “will be 2 to 3 percent worse” than May and “July could look like May. The forward curve for fuel is higher.”

Of course, as has been the case over the last year, there is one domestic airline that just keeps bucking the drop in demand trend. That airline is Allegiant Air, the airline portion of Allegiant Travel.

The airline reported Thursday that its total RPMs rose 20.1% while capacity was up 19%. While this resulted in only a 0.8 point increase in load factor for the month, you can pretty much be assured that this is going to be the most positive combo of demand and capacity that will be reported for the month.

Scheduled service at the airline increased 23.9% while capacity jumped 22.9%. Load factor increased 0.7 percentage points to 90.6% from 89.9%.

Both AirTran and Southwest Airlines announced drops in load factor this week.

Remember that these declines also came as both airlines were engaged in pretty stiff fare competition, so we can pretty much figure both airlines posted some healthy declines in yield and RASM as a result.

US Airways, which also reports RASM estimates, as does Continental, reported on Wednesday that its mainline traffic declined 5.2% on a 5.8% cut in capacity. As a result, the airline actually posted a .5 point increase in load factor.

However, as Bill Greene mentioned in his note on Friday, the airline also said that its consolidated PRASM fell between 18% and 20% during the month.

Also note that American Airlines saw traffic fall much more than the airline’s capacity cuts — as the airline reported that mainline traffic declined 11.7% in May, on a capacity decline of only 8.8% This resulted in a 2.6 point drop in load factor for the month. Ouch.

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.

US Airways’ December Traffic Numbers: Very Good


Oops. Members of the US Airways’ fan club sent me notes last night asking me why it was I hadn’t talked about their traffic numbers in yesterday’s post.

Okay, okay. Nothing intentional. I simply forgot. Quiet down!

Actually US Airways posted pretty darn good traffic numbers for December.

US Airways said Wednesday that its mainline RPMs were down 1.1% for the month, against a capacity shrinkage of 6.4%. Ding, ding, ding. You know what that means.

Yep. It means that load factor went up. And by a healthy 4.4 points to 80.3% — which set a new record for the airline.

American Airlines, US Airways Release Nov. Traffic Results


Since we started on this traffic, capacity and load factor watch this week, we might as well continue it.

Today American Airlines and US Airways reported their November numbers.

At American, RPMs fell 14.5% compared to a year earlier, but this was more than the airline’s reduction in capacity of 9.3%. This resulted in a drop in load factor of 4.6 points to 76.6%.

For American Eagle, things were even worse. RPMs here were down 21.5%, while capacity was down 15.9%. This resulted in a load factor drop of 4.6 points to 67.3%.

For US Airways, consolidated RPMs dropped 6.9% for November. But this pretty much matched the airline’s reduction in ASMs as the airline posted a drop in load factor of only 0.8 points. Basically flat.

For mainline only, the airline actually did quite well, as it saw RPMs down 3.6%. With capacity down 5.2%, this resulted in an increase in load factor — up 1.4 points to 81.9%.

Airline Stocks Hit Turbulence: Sluggish Traffic and Higher Oil to Blame


As ardent followers of the airline stock sector are aware, every month Continental Airlines leads the other airlines in reporting their traffic numbers for the previous month. But the other information the airline issues, along with its traffic numbers, is usually of more interest to us hard core airline fans.

That information, of course, is the RASM estimate the airline issues along with the traffic numbers.

For those of you who are new to this piece of the world, RASM stands for revenue per available seat mile and it is the most widely used “rule of thumb” measure of an airline’s revenue performance.

Last night Continental Airlines reported that it now expects mainline domestic revenue per available seat mile for November 2008 to grow only 4 percent to 6 percent, down significantly from previous expectations for growth in the “low-to-mid teens.”

Not surprisingly, the airline said that this was a result of lower yields. Translation: Lower ticket prices.

This news comes after most airlines over the last month insisted during their earnings call presentations that they were not seeing significant drops in demand.

We have a bit of what we might call an “inconjunct” here.

Jamie Baker, analyst with JP Morgan wrote this morning that while the news was not a complete surprise — it was still enough to push him to sharply reduce his fourth quarter forecast for the airline.

Baker now expects the company to report a loss of $0.56 per share, compared with prior expectations for profit of $0.40.

As Baker said in his note, it wasn’t a question of if — just a question of when the economic meltdown would catch up with airline demand. He expected the industry might have at least a month or so before the full effect hit.

The other problem today? Oil prices.

And here it gets a bit more complicated.

Is the price of oil rising because of a supply and demand issue?


The reason the price of oil is up today is because the dollar is falling.

Remember that oil is priced in dollars. As a result, investors see commodities such as oil as a hedge against inflation and a weak dollar and pour money into the crude futures market when the greenback falls.

A weak dollar also makes oil less expensive to buyers dealing in other currencies.

There you go. There’s your commodity pricing/falling dollar lesson for the day. Unfortunately the end result — higher oil prices — then affects this sector negatively.

As of this posting oil has soared more than $7 today, and is now trading around $71.50.