America West


shares in the lower part of their 52-week range, Calyon Securities analyst Ray Neidl says they're poised to catch an updraft.

The analyst's upgrade of the stock from neutral to add on Friday helped boost its price 24 cents, or 4.9%, to $5.19. Over the past year, the stock has traded between $3.91 and $11.24.

The Phoenix-based airline company is likely to report stronger-than-expected unit revenue when it announces its first quarter Wednesday, Neidl wrote in a research note explaining the upgrade.

"America West's stock is trading toward the lower end of its 52-week range and we believe that there is upside potential in the stock heading into the stronger spring travel season," wrote Neidl, who lifted his price target on the stock by $1, to $6. "We expect the carrier to benefit from the higher cash flow typically seen during the spring and summer seasons." Calyon does and seeks to do business with companies its analysts cover.

Neidl reduced his loss-per-share estimates to 43 cents from 86 cents for the first quarter, and to $2.68 from $3.57 for all of 2005. On average, analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call forecast a first-quarter loss of 68 cents a share on revenue of $597.9 million.

America West's significant number of western routes should insulate it somewhat from the tougher price competition on the East Coast, analysts have said. Although U.S. airlines have successfully hiked fares recently, the industry continues to suffer from high oil prices and overcapacity.

In that environment, some major carriers face potential cash crunches this year. But Neidl says he's comfortable with America West's current cash levels. The airline finished last year with $419.1 million of cash, about 18% of its trailing 12-month revenue, the analyst notes. That compares with 17% and 15% for


(CAL) - Get Report


Delta Air Lines

(DAL) - Get Report

, respectively.

Southwest Airlines

(LUV) - Get Report

kicked off airline earnings season Thursday with stronger-than-expected profits resulting in part from solid March unit revenue. The airline remains in the black because of its aggressive fuel hedging program.

Besides American West, a handful of other airlines report earnings next week. Continental and



American Airlines

are slated for Wednesday.


(JBLU) - Get Report

, Delta Air Lines and



plan to report a day later. Analysts predict that all will log hefty losses, with the exception of JetBlue, which is expected to earn 3 cents a share.