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The Airline Weekly Lounge

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Every Wednesday the editors of Airline Weekly discuss a few of the week’s more interesting developments within the commercial airline industry. In keeping with Airline Weekly’s style, conversation generally centers on one question: How do you make money in this industry?

Every Wednesday the editors of Airline Weekly discuss a few of the week’s more interesting developments within the commercial airline industry. In keeping with Airline Weekly’s style, conversation generally centers on one question: How do you make money in this industry?
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Every Wednesday the editors of Airline Weekly discuss a few of the week’s more interesting developments within the commercial airline industry. In keeping with Airline Weekly’s style, conversation generally centers on one question: How do you make money in this industry?




Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 103: Canadian Conundrum

Thanks to rising costs, it’s no surprise profits have declined at Air Canada and WestJet. But rising costs alone don’t explain how these Canadian carriers continue to consistently underperform their U.S. peers by a noticeable margin. Meanwhile in Europe, carriers like Ryanair, Aer Lingus, British Airways, Lufthansa, Swiss and others are putting up numbers very much like their U.S. counterparts. Unfortunately, Air France is not one of those carriers, as that airline nearly lost money in the...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 102: Singing the Blues

So far all U.S. carriers have reported shrinking year-over-year profits in the second quarter. But nobody’s margin decline was worse than that of JetBlue, which posted a 9% operating margin, down from 19% the year before. Allegiant had the best margin of the bunch, narrowly besting Southwest and Delta, both of which had shining quarters. American’s quarter was marred by its mishandling of basic economy, plus it wasn’t helped by its domestic-heavy network. Alaska has been lacking the right...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 101: Holding Up Well

Rising costs aren’t keeping Delta down. Delta overcame a 33% year-over-year increase in fuel costs to produce more than $1.2b in net profits (excluding special items) and a handsome 16% quarterly operating margin. In fact, despite the increased costs, Delta almost matched last year’s 18% Q2 margin. And the airline thinks it can return to improving margins by year’s end. Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine Norwegian’s results being more different. Norwegian chalked up a negative 3% operating...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 100: Wild Ride

Frontier Airlines has had one of the most topsy-turvy histories of any airline, and its first-quarter earnings report was no exception. Sporting a wild animal on each tail, the airline has been soaring in recent years. In 2017, Frontier had the seventh best operating profit margin in the world. But something happened in Q1 2018, as its margin was cut in half. Meanwhile, Air France/KLM searches for a CEO. Also, how important is it that United Airlines—by a wide margin—gets more revenue from...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 99: Say it ain’t so, Mexico!

Things haven’t gotten better in Mexico. Although Aeroméxico is at least coping better than its domestic competitors, all of which posted negative first-quarter margins in the double-digits. To make matters worse, construction of Mexico City’s much-needed new airport might be suspended as soon as July. North of the border, Delta and Southwest are seeing more cost pressures in the second quarter. And, lastly America is getting a new airline called Moxy. Adding to the excitement is that the...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 98: Ryan’s Resilience

Despite a 29% year-over-year increase to its labor costs, Ryanair still posted a positive profit margin in the first quarter. Ryan’s eastern European counterpart, Wizz Air, meanwhile faced an even more daunting 43% rise in labor costs and handled it with equal aplomb. Scandinavian Airlines is plodding along, but so are a lot of other legacy carriers in Europe. For the moment, that’s okay. Doing much less than okay is El Al, an airline suffering a big loss in its first quarter despite Tel...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 97: Trading Places?

For the moment, WestJet is the more profitable carrier. But in recent years, Air Canada has closed the gap and, in the first quarter of 2018, we see signs that Air Canada—after years of giving chase—might overtake its long-dominant rival. Emirates appears to be emerging from its malaise, but can it return to its former glory? AirFrance/KLM continues to struggle with its unions. Lufthansa had its best first quarter in a decade. And IAG, the airline group that includes British Airways,...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 96: Profit Preservation

Revenues for U.S. carriers remained terrifically healthy in the first quarter, and everybody made money. But rising labor and fuel costs generally shrunk year-over-year profit margins. United, which continues to trail Delta and American in profitability, did a pretty good job of preserving its margin. Profits slid a bit more at American, but it was especially buoyant in Latin America, where AA is the leading U.S. carrier. One airline that saw rather grisly margin deterioration was Alaska...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 95: Cost Creep

For a second straight year, Delta’s operating profit margin has fallen year-over-year in the first quarter. The reason for the decline, once again, is rising costs. The good news: Rising revenues—from nearly every corner of Delta’s network—propelled the airline to a solid 8% operating profit margin. One of the rising costs is, of course, fuel. Are fuel prices putting a damper on earnings overall? IAG seems interested in expanding its empire, having purchased a small stake in Norwegian and...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 94: Southern Discomfort

Numbers were put to the misery South African Airways has been experiencing when, last month, the airline finally reported earnings for its fiscal year ending in March 2017. Those numbers included a gut-wrenching negative 9% operating profit margin on the year. “Crisis” isn’t too strong of a word. What is SAA doing to turn things around? Elsewhere, it’s steady-as-she-goes for Cebu Pacific, which again is sitting among the world’s profit leaders. The Indian government has solicited bids for...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 93: Separation Anxiety

Air France/KLM and Lufthansa have a lot in common, including the fact that both distantly trail IAG (the parent company of British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling) in terms of profitability among Europe’s Big Three airline groups. What does IAG have that the others don’t? Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic turned in a profitless 2017 partly because of hurricanes. The fiesta has fizzled in Mexico right now as overcapacity, a weak peso and political concerns made it a miserable 2017 for the...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 92: Kiwis and Kangaroos

Life is good in Australasia—especially if you’re Qantas or Air New Zealand. Both carriers are enjoying a bit of a golden age that stems from good management and some macro tailwinds. Meanwhile, Virgin Australia, seemingly unable to catch those tailwinds, drifted toward a disheartening 2% operating profit margin in 2017. Scandinavia’s SAS, meanwhile, had a negative margin that really wasn’t disheartening, because it was a small loss (-3%) and came during the airline’s always-difficult...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 91: Best of 2017?

Not only does Ryanair keep on rolling, it seems to be gaining speed. Its full-year 2017 operating profit margin will almost certainly be the world’s best after every airline has reported. Ryan-like Wizz Air is also among the world’s profit leaders despite paying a lot more for fuel than last year. Korean Air and Asiana saw their China problem solved in Q4, and both received a lift from cargo and won appreciation. Air Canada and WestJet are trying just about everything to compete against...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 90: Success in the U.S.

With the bulk of U.S. airlines having now reported fourth quarter earnings, what has unfolded is largely a success story. 2017 wasn’t as good as 2015 or 2016, but it was generally good. Gone are the exhilarating margins of 25% and 27%. Instead we’re seeing healthy margins of 17% and 19%. Delta continues to set the pace for the Big Three. United continues to trail its peers, and that has led to some head-turning growth plans. American saw revenues surge in Dallas, Phoenix and its...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 89: Delta’s Clear Skies

Delta’s 2017 profits were down slightly from the glory days of 2015 and 2016. But make no mistake: This airline is performing very well. Consider that fuel prices increased 23% in the fourth quarter, and the airline was still slightly more profitable in the quarter year over year. The transatlantic market is performing well. The Asian market is performing well. The South American market is performing better. And that’s all before you get to Atlanta, which is one of the most valuable pieces...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 88: SAS Spells Success

Just a few years ago, the often-troubled SAS was merely inches away from seeing its light burn out permanently. Since then the airline has rallied. This past October the airline completed its best fiscal year in two decades. Is the airline merely surfing the buoyant European economy? Or is it building long-term success? Finnair is also enjoying a brilliant year. Icelandair is coping with growing competition. And the Air Berlin parts sale is largely settled. In the U.S., Spirit announced that...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 87: Troubled no more?

Jet Airways had a pretty mediocre third quarter. Still, there are plenty of signs of hope for the often troubled airline. In fact, Jet has posted 10 consecutive profitable quarters. India’s low-cost carrier IndiGo, meanwhile, is raking in double digit profit margins. And SpiceJet—an airline that fairly recently had buzzards circling above it—had its best third quarter ever. Both major airlines in South Korea have seen their profits tamped down by a diplomatic spat between their country and...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 86: An Easy Bet

European low-cost carrier easyJet isn’t doing as well as competing LCCs Ryanair and Wizz Air. But make no mistake: easyJet is doing well. The airline’s 20% operating profit margin for the April-through-September period puts it among the most profitable carriers in the world at the moment. In the U.S., Delta and Alaska Airlines have been waging a battle for Seattle for years. And more recently, Delta and JetBlue are brawling in Boston. Is it possible all three airlines are making money at...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 85: High-Flyin’ Ryan

The third quarter is usually a splendid time for airline profits in Europe, and this year has been no exception. Ryanair is more than surviving its recent bout of operational difficulties, having turned in a stellar earnings report. Europe’s Big Three all improved year-over-year with IAG posting its biggest quarterly profit margin to date. Air France/KLM and Lufthansa are enjoying a slowdown in encroachment by the Gulf carriers. Icelandair and Finnair are making the most of their warm...


Airline Weekly Lounge Episode 84: Sound the Alarm?

With most of the U.S. airlines having reported third-quarter earnings, it’s now clear that rising revenues aren’t keeping up with rising costs. While every U.S. airline fell victim to this condition, some are weathering it better than others. United and American Airlines were a couple of the “others” stumbling in Q3—at least compared to Delta. Neither hurricanes in Florida nor the horror in Las Vegas helped Allegiant, but it was a 19% increase in operating costs that really hurt profits....