Last week, American Airlines Group Inc. (AAL) CEO Doug Parker said the carrier's long-term prospects are outstanding, with profits averaging $5 billion a year indefinitely and never again falling below zero.
On Tuesday, Oct. 3, Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) said the third quarter looks OK.
Guess which outlook excited investors?
Last week, analysts focused on American throughout the week leading up to Parker's presentation on Sept. 28 to investors and media. As he spoke, shares rose nearly 4% but they fell back. For the week, American shares gained 1%. Tuesday, American and United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL) each gained about 6%, while Delta, JetBlue Airways Corp. and Spirit Airlines Inc. each gained about 7%.
Those gains occurred after Delta said in an investor update that third-quarter passenger revenue per available seat mile will increase 2%, which includes a 1% decline due to "a one point headwind related to Hurricane Irma." Delta had previously guided toward a PRASM gain between 2% and 3%.
Delta said Hurricane Irma "negatively impacted pre-tax income by $120 million."
Cowen & Co. analyst Helane Becker issued a report saying that excluding Irma's impact "the pricing environment appears to be stabilizing, which should be viewed favorably." She reiterated an outperform rating on the stock.
Despite Tuesday's share price gains, analysts did not seem to regard Delta's report as cause for elation.
On Wednesday, Buckingham Research analyst Dan McKenzie reiterated a buy on Delta, but trimmed his target price to $65 from $70.
Delta shares rose 1% on Wednesday, Oct. 4.
McKenzie wrote, "Pricing power for the industry exists in 2018 but is limited." He forecast "modest margin expansion for Delta in 2018." He noted that Delta and JetBlue are responding to Florida and Caribbean weakness with capacity cuts in affected areas, "which suggests that some of the unit revenue weakness (over travel perception issues" dissipates."
Also, late Tuesday, JPMorgan analyst Jamie Baker reduced his third-quarter earnings estimate for Delta to $1.52 a share from $1.60. He said, "American is likely to guide down as well," given that Florida represents 12.7% of Delta's planned September domestic seats and 15.7% of American's planned September domestic seats.
"Given outsized Florida exposure, we would not be surprised to see American similarly temper its 3Q forecast next week," Baker wrote.
As for the outsized reaction to Delta's monthly traffic report, Parker may be quietly shaking his head.
At the investor presentation, he said American will cease issuing monthly traffic reports and will only provide unit revenue guidance on a quarterly basis. He said the monthly reports, long an industry tradition, result in too much focus on short-term results.
"We don't care what anybody else does," Parker said. "We don't think its relevant. It seems to be hurting our ability to get our message to shareholders."