Issue No. 896

Wizz Air Stumbles

Is the European Discounter Losing Some of Its Wizardry?

Pushing Back: Inside the Issue

With earnings season in full swing, we now have a clear picture of airline trends in the U.S. The Big Three — American, Delta, and United — all performed admirably in the fourth quarter, boosted no doubt by exceptionally strong demand, especially on sunshine routes and to Europe. Southwest, on the contrary, amassed gargantuan losses from its operational disaster last month. Never before had an airline spilled that much red ink due to an operational event. Alaska Airlines earned a decent fourth quarter profit, but west coast economic woes are a worry. JetBlue’s margins were anemic, never mind its heavy exposure to booming markets like Florida and the Caribbean — clearly something's not performing up to snuff. Its transcontinental routes? Its Boston business markets? Perhaps Spirit will cure what ails it.

Wizz Air’s got ailments of its own, most frustratingly an inability to get aircraft utilization back to pre-pandemic norms. Ryanair, which Wizz mimics, reports Monday. Lots of other airlines report in the coming weeks as well.

In other news last week, Boeing said production headaches linger, though demand for the 737 Max and 787 is strong. China continues to reopen. Ethiopian Airlines and Copa Airlines have new routes. Vienna Airport seems to have figured out why Austrian Airlines is doing so well. And, less happily for airlines, jet fuel prices are starting to creep up again.

Airline Weekly Lounge Podcast

It was a busy earnings week with American, Southwest, Alaska, and JetBlue all reporting. Edward Russell and Jay Shabat previewed what they were listening for ahead of the airline calls. Plus, EasyJet’s strong December quarter revenues suggest their network shift to southern Europe is working. Listen to this week’s episode to find out. A full archive of the Lounge is here.

Weekly Skies

Two months. That’s how long Southwest Airlines expects there to be an impact on bookings from its massive holiday meltdown that disrupted millions of travelers over Christmas and New Years.

Feature Story

After a bloody first half of 2022, followed by an underwhelming summer, Europe’s Ryanair-wannabe, Wizz Air, reported heavy underlying losses for calendar fourth quarter. Its operating margin? Negative 17 percent.

By the Numbers

Six U.S. airlines have now reported their fourth quarter results. Here's how they rank.