Airline stocks have been in the doldrums for most of this year.

Terrorism attacks, Brexit and increasing oil prices have led to weakness in the aviation sector. There are also concerns about overcapacity. 

But this has made select airline shares cheap compared to their true value and provided some great investment opportunities. We pinpoint the best two options below. Both companies are well managed and have solid financials. 

1. Delta Air Lines (DAL) - Get Report

Delta Air Lines, which serves an estimated 180 million customers each year, operates a mainline fleet of more than 800 aircraft.

Delta Airlines is an exceptionally run company. It has better operating margins than American Airlines, despite their similar revenue sizes. 

To be sure, the 25% decline in the stock's price this year shows that even the best companies are vulnerable to the vagaries of market. But Delta deserves a premium in the days to come.

The company is on schedule to deliver $1.5 billion in operating cash flow, which augurs well for the state of finances supporting its modest 2.15% dividend yield.

Although airfares at an industry level have tended lower in July and August, those negatives are priced in for Delta.

Furthermore, the company's expanding offerings (out of Boston and Atlanta), broad-based partnerships such as the one with Korean Air, its pummeling of rivals like JetBlue, and the sorting out of labor issues are other positives.

This puts Delta in line for an expected roughly 11% annual earnings per share (EPS) growth over the next five years.

Analysts offering one-year price targets project an upswing of more than 36% in the next 12 months.

At a forward P/E of about 6.80, Delta's stock is cheap compared to American Airlines and United Continental. This investment opportunity should soar.

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2. Southwest Airlines (LUV) - Get Report

Southwest is the world's biggest low-cost carrier. But this giant brand still has tons of growth potential.

To be sure, worries hitting airline industry stocks have affected Southwest shares, shaving off nearly 15% year to date.

But Southwest Airlines should achieve the nearly 14% annual EPS growth projected by analysts. It will also grow faster than the industry and peers like Ryanair; Southwest is almost net-debt free, a rarity in the debt-heavy aviation space.

In addition, Southwest serves more than 100 million customers a year, Southwest has shown the ability to record profits and has delivered three straight years of $1 billion-plus in annual free cash flows.

With an increased earnings ahead and a rising traction among low-cost target customers, Southwest Airlines is poised to clock solid gains. The median analysts forecast calls for the classic carrier to gain more than 27% in the next 12 months. Get in now.


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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.