United and Alaska Airlines Navigate Uncertainty
Airline Weekly’s Jay Shabat is joined by former Airline Weekly Editor Madhu Unnikrishnan to discuss United Airlines’ and Alaska Airlines’ first quarter earnings reports from earlier this week.
The conversation starts with United’s challenges in January and February, and notes investors will tolerate it if they have a strong March and the rest of the year. United is working to rectify its problems in Florida and has a lot of aircraft coming along in the next few years to put somewhere. The company has also benefited from a trend in premium leisure travel, which has helped fill the seats in the premium cabins. The three big U.S. carriers – United, Delta, and American – are doing well compared to the domestic carriers. They have the advantage of the demand being strong, and a lot of foreign carriers cutting capacity during the pandemic.
Next, they discuss Alaska Airlines and mention that the company reported negative 4.6 operating margin for the first quarter, which is not good compared to their positive 2.5% operating margin in 2019. Alaska has historically had weak first quarters, and they sometimes lose money in January and February, but they have been a very successful and profitable airline. They also discuss where Alaska fits in the overall U.S. airline picture, as it is not a low-cost carrier like Frontier nor a full-service airline like Delta and United.