By James Dennin for Kapitall.

Virgin America is going public 7 years after its founding. The catalyst is its first profit of $10 million, as well as a fantastic market for airline stocks. 

It's not exactly what you'd expect, considering the preponderance of high-profile plane crashes that have dominated the news this summer. But half of the major airlines are up at least 20% this year, according to Finviz.

The rally has been so pronounced some investors are even calling for a return of the ill-fated airline ETF that was dissolved after it fell 135%. 

And yet, the risk factors facing the airline industry still remain high. For one, there aren't enough pilots for US firms, as foreign state-owned airlines often pay much better. Fuel costs have also been unpredictable. 

But there's also the growing economy at play. Wisdom has it that when the economy picks up, so do transportation stocks, which are responsible for moving all that extra prosperity from place to place.

We decided to see if institutional investors were buying airline stocks as an additional sign of bullishness on the sector. Sure enough, two regional airlines have experienced surges in buying from groups like hedge funds over the last quarter. 

Do you think they are right to think airlines will keep flying high? Use the list below to begin your analysis and let us know what you think in the comments.  

Click on the interactive chart to view data over time. 

 

1. Hawaiian Holdings Inc. ( HA): Engages in the scheduled air transportation of passengers and cargo. Market cap at $774M, most recent closing price at $14.40.  

Net institutional purchases in the current quarter at 3.4M shares, which represents about 7.54% of the company's float of 45.08M shares. 

Major holder: Hirzel Capital Management, LLC at a 10.64% stake. 

 

 

2. LAN Airlines S.A. ( LFL): Provides passenger and cargo air transportation services. Market cap at $6.73B, most recent closing price at $12.24.  

Net institutional purchases in the current quarter at 5.5M shares, which represents about 9.39% of the company's float of 58.55M shares. 

Major holder: Manning & Napier Advisors Inc at a 1.56% stake.  

 

(List compiled by James Dennin. Monthly returns sourced from Zacks Investment Research, institutional data sourced from Fidelity, all other data sourced from Finviz.)

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