On Friday, March 10th, Barclays raised United Airlines and Alaska Air in response to the high spring travel demand, but it didn't elevate Southwest Airlines, which received a downgrading.
US airline shares have had a considerable uptrend to begin 2023; the NYSE Arca Global Airline Index is up 17% year to date. Last month, the rise took a temporary break as investors awaited information on how the crucial spring and summer months may develop.
So far, so good; demand seems to be holding steady and airfares are still high.
The Barclays analysts, under the direction of Brandon Oglenski, wrote in a note on Friday the following:
"The demand for air travel was still strong as we approached the busiest spring break season."
In light of this, they upgraded the United and Alaska from Equal Weight to Overweight.
They also noted that there is less competition internationally because foreign airlines have reduced their long-haul fleet sizes.
"We think the ongoing recovery in long-haul international traffic will produce outsized advantages for United in 2023."
They increased their target price for the stock from $52 to $80, representing a 53% increase over Thursday's closing price.
Even after a strong start to the year, the sector is once again upbeat in the spring, but Southwest Airlines is not one of them, at least not in the opinion of Barclays.
The share was downgraded by the bank's analysts from Overweight to Equal Weight. The carrier's holiday travel disruptions have hurt the company, which has resulted in the stocks falling 1.8% so far this year and missing out on the industry rally.
The company's IT infrastructure, according to Oglenski, "remains obsolete relative to rivals," and "further aggressive capital investments may be necessary" to close the gap.
In written evidence submitted last month to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the airline stated that following mitigating steps, it's now confident in its capacity to react to abnormal operations.
It also survived the harsh winter weather in February essentially undamaged in terms of operations.
The completion factor for Southwest has improved this winter despite substantial weather-related problems, but Oglenski continued:
"We would prefer to relocate our less-levered "safe" airline Overweight recommendation to Alaska Airlines."
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Source: Dan Meyers/Unsplash
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