Cheaper Airfares Are Squeezing Airline Stocks
U.S. travelers are paying less to fly, and airline stocks are taking a hit.
Airlines that focus on domestic flights are being squeezed as Americans embrace travel to Europe over vacations closer to home. Airfares across the industry were down 13.3% in August from a year ago, marking the fifth straight month of declines, according to federal data that is weighted toward domestic flights. The weakening demand comes just as airlines are facing surging jet fuel prices and rising labor costs.
Doubts over whether carriers will be able to raise fares to offset mounting expenses have their stocks in retreat: The U.S. Global Jets exchange-traded fund, which tracks the industry, has gained 5.4% this year on a postpandemic bump but is down 19% from its recent high in July. American Airlines' stock is down 29% from that peak, while Southwest Airlines is down 24%.
The S&P 500 is up 1.5% over the same period.
“Bigger picture, this is an industry driven by pricing power," said Andrew Didora, senior airlines analyst at Bank of America. “There's the investor concern that pricing is not going to be there as fuel moves higher."
The pressures come after a tumultuous few years for the industry. Airline stocks plunged after the Covid-19 pandemic essentially shut down travel in 2020, forcing carriers to turn to government aid and borrow billions of dollars to get through the dry spell.
Then as health restrictions eased, people who had built up savings while stuck at home eagerly shelled out to travel again. The pent-up demand—along with labor shortages that limited capacity—drove airfares up by as much as 43% in 2022 from the previous year. Airlines reaped record revenues, and shares of major carriers have more than doubled from their 2020 lows, though heavier debt levels have kept shares well below prepandemic levels.
For now, people are still squeezing onto packed airplanes. An average of 2.4 million passengers went through U.S. airports each day over the recent Labor Day weekend, according to Transportation Security Administration data. That was higher than in 2019.
Where travelers are headed, however, has shifted.
Spirit Airlines, which operates mostly domestic flights, said last week it had to offer “steep discounting" for travel booked from the late summer to pre-Thanksgiving period, and trimmed its third-quarter revenue forecast. Southwest said earlier this month that overall demand was healthy, but that August bookings were on the low end of its expectations.
Investors also worry the postpandemic surge in leisure travel will peter out and that lucrative corporate travel will never fully return. Before the pandemic, business travelers accounted for about half of profits and 12% of traffic for U.S. airlines, according to a McKinsey analysis.
Meanwhile, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Alaska Air Group have all warned that costs for the third quarter would be higher than previously forecast.
Airlines are paying roughly 25% more for fuel than they were in July, according to Didora of Bank of America. Labor costs are also set to increase, with new contracts for American Airlines and Delta pilots promising pay raises over a four-year period of 46% and 34%, respectively.
Like other commodities, fuel prices are volatile and a drop could help reverse the recent selloff. Airlines could also try passing higher costs on to customers by raising fares.
But people might no longer be willing to spend as much on trips as their pandemic wanderlust subsides. “It's always difficult to tell how elastic demand will be," said Chris Raite, an industrials analyst at research firm Third Bridge Group.
Write to Charley Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Live Mint
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Biden Administration Announces USD 600M to Produce Covid Tests Published 32 minutes ago
The Biden administration has announced that it is providing USD 600 million in funding to produce new at-home COVID-19 tests and is restarting a website allowing Americans to again order up to four free tests per household — aiming to prevent possible shortages during a rise in coronavirus cases that has typically come during colder months.
The Department of Health and Human Services said on Wednesday that orders can be placed at COVIDTests.gov starting September 25, and that no-cost tests will be delivered for free by the United States Postal Service.
Twelve manufacturers that employ hundreds of people in seven states have been awarded funding and will produce 200 million over-the-counter tests to replenish federal stockpiles for government use, in addition to producing enough tests to meet demand for tests ordered online, the department said. Federal officials said that will help guard against supply chain issues that sparked some shortages of at-home COVID tests made overseas during past surges in coronavirus cases.
Dawn O'Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, said the website will remain functional to receive orders through the holidays and ”we reserve the right to keep it open even longer if we're starting to see an increase in cases”.
”If there is a demand for these tests, we want to make sure that they're made available to the American people for free in this way,” O'Connell said. ”But, at this point, our focus is getting through the holidays and making sure folks can take a test if they're going to see grandma for Thanksgiving.” The tests are designed to detect COVID variants currently circulating, and are intended for use by the end of the year. But they will include instructions on how to verify extended expiration dates, the department said.
The initiative follows four previous rounds where federal officials and the US Postal Service provided more than 755 million tests for free to homes nationwide.
It is also meant to complement ongoing federal efforts to provide free COVID tests to long-term care facilities, schools, low-income senior housing, uninsured individuals and underserved communities which are already distributing 4 million per week and have distributed 500 million tests to date, the department said.
O'Connell said manufacturers would be able to spread out the 200 million tests they will produce for federal use over 18 months. That means that, as demand for home tests rises via the website or at US retailers when COVID cases increase around the country, producers can focus on meeting those orders — but that they will then have an additional outlet for the tests they produce during the period when demand declines.
”We've seen every winter, as people move indoors into heated spaces, away from the outside that, over each of the seasons that COVID's been a concern, that we have seen cases go up,” O'Connell said.
She added that also ”there's always an opportunity or chance for another variant to come” but ”we're not anticipating that”.
”That's not why we're doing this,” O'Connell said. ”We're doing this for the fall and winter season ahead and the potential for an increase in cases as a result.” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said that the ”Biden-Harris Administration, in partnership with domestic manufacturers, has made great strides in addressing vulnerabilities in the US supply chain by reducing our reliance on overseas manufacturing”.
”These critical investments will strengthen our nation's production levels of domestic at-home COVID-19 rapid tests and help mitigate the spread of the virus,” Becerra said in a statement.
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Mumbai airport August air traffic at 108% of pre-pandemic level
New Delhi: Domestic air traffic at the Mumbai International Airport last month stood at 108% of pre-pandemic level of August 2019.
The airport recorded passenger traffic of over 4.32 million, an increase of 32% year-on-year, while international air traffic soared 33% on year to more than 1.1 million passengers.
The airport witnessed a total of 20,711 domestic flights and 6,960 international air traffic movements last month.
Delhi, Bengaluru, and Chennai emerged as the top domestic destinations in August, while Dubai, London, and Abu Dhabi were the most preferred international destinations from the airport.
In August, the airport witnessed a 150% increase in air passenger traffic for Munich, followed by a 138% growth in air traffic for Hanoi and 110% rise for Istanbul traffic. Nairobi and Ho Chi Minh also witnessed a growth of 99% and 96% in passenger traffic respectively as compared to August 2022.
The average daily passenger count for the month stood at 139,661.
In the domestic sector, IndiGo led with 48% market share, followed by Air India with 18% and Vistara with 17%. In the international segment, IndiGo recorded 22% market share, followed by Air India with 14% and Vistara with 10%.
In the freight category, the airport saw air cargo tonnage growth of 6%, with a 3% rise in domestic cargo tonnage and an 8% rise in international cargo tonnage in August 2023.
Overall, the Indian aviation market has revival in domestic air travel since December 2022 when covid-related restrictions were eased. Domestic air traffic last month for the country stood at 12.4 million passengers, a rise of 5% when compared to pre-pandemic levels of August 2019.
Source: Live Mint
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Air India Express
New Delhi: To achieve seamless integration, Air India Express and AirAsia India on Monday announced the commencement of interline bookings.
As a result of this, passengers will now be able book a single itinerary across both airlines on connecting flights, including a single PNR on the common website and other online travel platforms.
For instance, with the interline arrangement, passengers can book a Lucknow- Delhi-Sharjah itinerary under a single PNR and receive their boarding passes for both Lucknow to Delhi and Delhi to Sharjah, at the beginning of their journey in Lucknow itself.
With a combined fleet of 54 aircraft, both airlines together connect 44 destinations, operating over 250 routes across India, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The airlines have already integrated ancillary add-on services and sub-brands, such as Gourmair in-flight dining, Xpress Prime seating, and Xpress Ahead priority services.
"Our ongoing efforts towards integrating Air India Express and AirAsia India, even as we proceed with the full merger, is now bearing fruit, with a strong, integrated network emerging. The network footprint stretches across India, Gulf & the Middle East, and Southeast Asia and will be further strengthened with our forthcoming fleet expansion," said Aloke Singh, managing director, Air India Express and AirAsia India.
Following the recent launch of Air India's new logo and livery, the Tata group is also set to introduce a fresh brand identity for Air India Express by October, Mint had reported earlier.
As part of the government‘s strategic divestment programme, the Tatas acquired full ownership of both Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express in January 2022.
In November 2022, the Tata group announced the merger of AirAsia India and Air India Express. As a part of the transaction, AirAsia Bhd divested its 16.67% stake in the airline, allowing the Tatas to buy it for ₹155.65 crore.
AirAsia India flies over 50 direct and over 100 connecting routes across 19 destinations in India including Bengaluru, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Bhubaneswar, Visakhapatnam, Imphal, Guwahati, Goa, Jaipur, Lucknow, Surat, Bagdogra, Ranchi, and Srinagar.
Air India Express operates to 14 international destinations including Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Bahrain, Dammam, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait, Muscat, Salalah, Sharjah, Singapore, Ras-Al-Khaimah, Riyadh, & Jeddah, from Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Mangalore, Chennai, Tiruchirappalli, Mumbai, Amritsar, Lucknow, Jaipur, Varanasi, New Delhi, Chandigarh, Madurai, Vijayawada, Bengaluru, Kannur, Surat, and Hyderabad.
Source: Live Mint
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Akasa sues 43 pilots for joining other airlines without serving a notice period
Akasa Airline has decided to take legal action against 43 pilots who joined other airline/s without serving the notice period. The 13-month-old airline has reportedly sought about ₹22 crore as compensation from the 43 pilots for the loss of revenue and damaging reputation of the airline.
According to a report by the Times of India, the mass exodus of pilots has forced the airline to cancel its several operations since August 2023.
"We have sought legal remedy only against a small set of pilots who abandoned their duties and left without serving their mandatory contractual notice period," an Akasa Air spokesperson said.
The airline said the act was not only in violation of their contract but also the country's civil aviation regulations.
"Not only is this illegal in law but also an unethical and selfish act that disrupted flights in August forcing last-minute cancellations that stranded thousands of customers causing significant inconvenience to the travelling public," it said.
Akasa Air, which currently has a fleet of 20 planes, started operations in August 2022.
This year in June, the Mumbai-headquartered airline increased the salaries of pilots by up to 40%. As per a June report, Akasa Air announced that from July 2023, senior first officers will now start with a monthly salary of ₹3.40 lakh, while senior captains will earn ₹6.25 lakh. Earlier it was ₹2.75 lakh and ₹5.75 lakh, respectively.
Also read: Akasa Air increases pilots salary by 40%: Report
If the experience and flight hours are more, the pay scale may be even higher, and the captain may earn up to ₹7.75 lakh per month, a 6% increase from the current ₹7.28 lakh, Akasa said in June this year.
Not only this, for every additional hour, apart from the fixed 40 hours of flying, captains will be paid ₹7,500 and first officers ₹3,045.
Akasa in August added the 20th aircraft to its fleet making the airline eligible to start international operations.
Indian regulations require airlines to have at least 20 aircraft in their fleet to become eligible for international operations.
As of August 2023, Akasa operated more than 900 weekly flights across 16 cities in the country.
Source: Live Mint
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Zooom Airlines revives air operator certificate
New Delhi: Zooom Airlines, earlier called Zoom Air, has revived air operator certificate from the Indian civil aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation to commence flight operations in India, the airline said on Friday.
"With our AOC in hand, we look forward to providing passengers with a top-notch travel experience that combines convenience, efficiency, and comfort," Zooom Airlines chief executive officer Atul Gambhir said in a statement.
Zoom Air was established as Zexus Air in April 2013 and the airline had taken delivery of its first aircraft, a Bombardier CRJ200. It had then commenced operations in February 2017. However, the airline was unable to attract substantial air passenger traffic. Its air operator certificate was also suspended in July 2018 for over a year by the DGCA following safety concerns.
With a new name, the airline aims to create a fresh brand recall for the airline with an improved experience for the flyers, industry experts said.
The Gurugram-based company will use its Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft for the flight operations.
“Our Crj 200 aircraft will provide domestic travellers with unprecedented speed on each route. We wish to cater to the growing number of domestic travellers who take frequent flights and expect comfortable travel with reliable speed," Gambhir added.
The airline has plans to target a “cost-effective" and “convenient" solution for regional travel needs of flyers in a growing Indian aviation market. The domestic air traffic in the month of August stood at 12.4 million passengers in India, 5% more than the pre-pandemic level of 11.8 million passengers in Aug 2019.
“We are confident in our ability to carve out a niche by offering a unique and innovative travel experience," Gambhir said.
Currently, the Indian aviation market has two active regional carriers namely Fly Big and Star Air with a share of 0.2% and 0.3% respectively in the domestic civil aviation market.
Source: Live Mint
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From Aid to Fishermen & Better Roads to Salary Hike for Teachers
Mumbaikars are getting true justice now under chief minister Eknath Shinde, Shiv Sena secretary and spokesperson Kiran Pawaskar has said, slamming the Thackerays for neglecting the city despite controlling the BMC for more than two decades
On Wednesday, Shinde disbursed compensation to the over 500 fishermen of Worli Koliwada who have been adversely affected by the Mumbai coastal road project since 2018. “These individuals hail from Aaditya Thackeray's constituency. Instead of assisting them, he spends his time levelling allegations against the chief minister daily. Despite this, Shinde remains resolute, ignoring the criticism and delivering justice to the public, as demonstrated in this instance,” said Pawaskar.
Speaking to the media in Mumbai, Pawaskar added: “This (fishermen) community has been grappling with issues since 2018, yet the MVA chief minister ignored them and their due compensation. The Thackerays have labelled Shinde as unconstitutional. Today, it's clear to everyone who truly respects the Constitution and serves the public.”
Pawaskar cited another example to show how Uddhav Thackeray has never worked for the people of the city. “Even though the Thackerays controlled the BMC for more than two decades, it was Shinde who approved the implementation of the 7th pay commission for BMC school teachers. After this hike, teacher salaries will rise by Rs 13,000 to Rs 28,000. These educators have been clamouring for the 7th pay commission since 2017. What prevented the Thackerays from addressing their concerns?" asked Pawaskar.
He emphasised that while Sena UBT leaders are preoccupied with criticism and slinging mud at the chief minister, Shinde has consistently responded through actions that benefit people.
“Each year, in the name of monsoon preparedness, Sena UBT leaders only indulged in corruption and turned Mumbai into Tumbai (a flooded city). But this year, despite heavy rains, Mumbai did not flood even a single day. Such transformative changes speak of Shinde's calibre. He has also started work on giving the city better infrastructure, including pothole-free roads.”
Pawaskar said the ongoing inquiries against those who looted the BMC coffers even during the pandemic will soon result in action. “It is a matter of shame that the Mayor of the city has been charged under Section 420 in two cases. The people of Mumbai will soon be presented with a clear picture of the action taken against those who indulged in corruption,” he said.
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SpiceJet issues shares to lessors to clear ₹231 crore dues
New Delhi: SpiceJet Limited, India’s financially stricken low-cost carrier, has announced the allotment of 4.81 crore equity shares on a preferential basis to nine of its aircraft lessors to clear outstanding dues of ₹231 crore, the company announced through a statement filed with the BSE here today.
Reportedly, the shareholders of the company at its meeting passed several resolutions, including a ₹2,500 crore fundraiser and a preferential issue of shares to lessors at an issue price of ₹48 each to clear its outstanding dues.
The nine lessors who have been allotted the shares include - SASOF III (A13) Aviation Ireland DAC, SASOF III (A6) Aviation Ireland DAC, SASOF III (C) Aviation Ireland DAC, SASOF III (E) Aviation Ireland DAC, SASOF III (A19) Aviation Ireland DAC, SASOF II (J) Aviation Ireland DAC Citrine Aircraft Leasing Limited, Fly Aircraft Holdings Seven Limited, Fly Aircraft Holdings One Limited.
The company also disclosed that it has further on a preferential basis allotted 3.41 crore equity shares and 13.15 crore warrants at issue price of ₹29.84 each to Spice Health Care Private Limited (an entity under ‘promoter group').
SpiceJet has been scrambling to raise funds and restore operations for about a fourth of its fleet that has been grounded amid fierce competition in the sector. The legal battles, fund crunch, and grounded fleet have eroded the airline's market share to 4.2% as of July - lower than that of new entrant Akasa Air.
SpiceJet, which in February converted around $100 million in dues to aircraft lessor Carlyle Aviation into equity and debentures, is still entangled in legal battles with other lessors over dues.
Moreover, a fortnight ago, the Delhi High Court had ordered the airline to pay ₹100 crore by 10 September to former owner Kalanithi Maran over money owed. SpiceJet owes a total of ₹397 crore to Maran.
Source: Live Mint
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