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Life Is Detected in the Airline Industry

In spite of the recent oil-price hike, airlines are posting healthy gains.

Ah, and you laughed when I

said we had dragged out the orange-hued Wing Tips airline profit-hunting attire.

Well, here are some numbers that should convince the skeptics that yes, Virginia, there is life in the airline industry after $32-a-barrel oil prices.

While we usually look at the quarterly results, this time we're zeroing in on the moves over the last month or so, as there is no doubt that early March marked the beginning of the mad dash for profits.

As you can see, for the period of time between March 3 and April 7, 27 of the 42 airline or airline-related stocks we cover posted a double-digit gain.

In addition, the sector seems to be behaving fairly predictably in terms of hot streaks and cooling-off periods. If you look above, you will not see Wing Tips' favorite


(RYAAY) - Get Ryanair Holdings Plc Report

on the list. Heavens! What happened?

A lot. But it was all in the first two months of the year. As we previously discussed, the stock was overbought in the institutional equivalent of a feeding frenzy in February. As a result, it lost 7% in March. But even after shedding that, the airline managed to post that 66% gain for the three-month period.

Same thing happened with


, another Wing Tips favorite. WestJet had a great first quarter, picking up 18%, but for March alone, the airline was down 4%. Same issue here. The stock got a nice upward draft as a result of the continuing absorption of

Canadian Airlines


Air Canada

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, good earnings for the fourth quarter and the airline's announced expansion eastward.

But again, the stock got a bit ahead of itself -- hence the recent cooling off.

Bouncing from the bottom to the top, look who picked up a hefty 49% for the month: None other than

US Airways

(U) - Get Unity Software, Inc. Report

. Doesn't surprise us one bit. This one has bounced back for a lot of reasons. The carrier settled with its flight attendants and says its operational woes are now history. Besides that, the stock was just plain oversold. We had figured on a 30% uptick, but this 49% figure is a bit astounding.

As for both

Atlantic Coast




(SKYW) - Get SkyWest, Inc Report

, remember that as we have mentioned in the past, both of these regional airlines tend to make moves at the end of a quarter, especially SkyWest. We like Atlantic Coast's new fly-for-hire contract with

Delta Air Lines

(DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines, Inc. Report

that begins shortly. In fact, we like it a lot. What we would like even better is if Atlantic Coast spun off the jet-only part of the company that will be flying for Delta into a separate company. That stock would be one hot property.

Now, if

United Airlines

(UAL) - Get United Airlines Holdings, Inc. Report

could just get its pilots to sign off on allowing more regional jet flying by United's regional partners (that includes both SkyWest and Atlantic Coast), those stocks will have even more reason to hyperventilate.

Do we think this is going to happen? Yes. When? That could be another year, or it could be in as little as six months. Both sides are slated to ask the

Labor Department's

National Mediation Board for help with the negotiations this week.

Next: More Profit-Hunting Patter.

Holly Hegeman, based in Barrington, Rhode Island, pilots the Wing Tips column for At time of publication, Hegeman held no positions in any securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. You can usually find Hegeman, publisher of PlaneBusiness Banter, buzzing around her airline industry Web site at While she cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, she welcomes your feedback at