The airline industry is comprised of companies that offer a variety of air transportation and travel services for consumers and cargo. Services include flight transport, aircraft leasing, hotel booking, car rentals, and travel management services. Some big names in the airline industry include Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV), Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL), and United Airlines Holdings Inc. (UAL). Travel restrictions, including strict social distancing rules, put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, led to plunging demand for airline travel and severely impacted the airline industry over the past year. Many airlines are seeing sharp increases in passenger travel as economies open up in the U.S., Europe and other regions.

Airline stocks, as represented by the U.S. Global Jets ETF (JETS), an airline ETF, have underperformed the broader market. JETS has provided a total return of 20.5% over the past 12 months, below the Russell 1000's total return of 34.7%. These market performance numbers and all statistics in the tables below are as of June 7, 2021.

Here are the top 3 airline stocks with the best value, fastest growth, and most momentum.

Best Value Airline Stocks

These are the airline stocks with the lowest 12-month trailing price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio. Because profits can be returned to shareholders in the form of dividends and buybacks, a low P/E ratio shows you’re paying less for each dollar of profit generated.

Best Value Airline Stocks
  Price ($) Market Cap ($M) 12-Month Trailing P/E Ratio
Mesa Air Group Inc. (MESA) 9.51 339.5 10.0
Exchange Income Corp. (EIF.TO) CA$39.41 CA$1,489 35.2
Chorus Aviation Inc. (CHR.TO) CA$4.89 CA$791.5 44.5

Source: YCharts

  • Mesa Air Group Inc.: Mesa Air provides airline services throughout the U.S., as well as to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. It operates as United Express and American Eagle. The company's services include passenger transportation and air freight. May 2021, Mesa's business rebounded sharply, more than doubling its block hours year-over-year (YOY). Block hours measure operational time, and thus utilization, for revenue-producing flights.
  • Exchange Income Corp.: Exchange Income is a Canada-based company focused on acquisition opportunities in aerospace and aviation services and equipment. The company reported net earnings of $7.1 million for Q1 2021 compared with a net loss for Q1 2020.
  • Chorus Aviation Inc.: Chorus Aviation is a Canada-based regional airline operator. It provides regional aviation services and aircraft leasing.

Fastest Growing Airline Stocks

These are the top airline stocks as ranked by a growth model that scores companies based on a 50/50 weighting of their most recent quarterly YOY percentage revenue growth and their most recent quarterly YOY earnings-per-share (EPS) growth. Both sales and earnings are critical factors in the success of a company. Therefore ranking companies by only one growth metric makes a ranking susceptible to the accounting anomalies of that quarter (such as changes in tax law or restructuring costs) that may make one or the other figure unrepresentative of the business in general. Companies with quarterly EPS or revenue growth of over 2,500% were excluded as outliers.

Fastest Growing Airline Stocks
  Price ($) Market Cap ($B) EPS Growth (%) Revenue Growth (%)
Mesa Air Group Inc. (MESA) 9.51 0.3 180.0 -45.9
Controladora Vuela Compañía de Aviación SAB de CV (VLRS) 16.73 1.9 N/A (see company description) -19.2
SkyWest Inc. (SKYW) 48.14 2.4 20.3 -26.8

Source: YCharts

  • Mesa Air Group Inc.: See above for company description.
  • Controladora Vuela Compañía de Aviación SAB de CV: Controladora Vuela Compañía de Aviación, also known as Volaris, is a Mexico-based low-cost airline carrier offering passenger air transportation. The company does not have a figure in the EPS growth column above because it posted negative earnings for Q1 2021. For May 2021, Volaris reported that its load factor rose to 87.8%, and that passenger capacity more than doubled compared to a year earlier.
  • SkyWest Inc.: SkyWest Airlines is a regional airline that operates in 239 cities in 48 U.S. states through partnerships with United Airlines Inc, Delta Air Lines Inc., American Inc. and Alaska Air Line Inc. SkyWest also offers travel, car hire, booking, and similar services to customers worldwide.

Airline Stocks with the Most Momentum

These are the airline stocks that had the highest total return over the last 12 months.

Airline Stocks with the Most Momentum
  Price ($) Market Cap ($B) 12-Month Trailing Total Return (%)
Controladora Vuela Compañía de Aviación SAB de CV (VLRS) 16.73 1.9 156.6
Mesa Air Group Inc. (MESA) 9.51 0.3 120.6
Azul SA (AZUL) 28.14 3.2 119.8
Russell 1000 N/A N/A 34.7
U.S. Global Jets ETF (JETS) N/A N/A 20.5

Source: YCharts

  • Controladora Vuela Compañía de Aviación SAB de CV: See above for company description.
  • Mesa Air Group Inc.: See above for company description.
  • Azul SA: Azul S.A. is a Brazil-based company offering a variety of airline services. Through subsidiaries, Azul provides passenger and cargo air transportation and related services. In May, the company announced that it expects to double cargo revenue by the end of 2021 relative to 2019. Azul also expects 2022 EBITDA to surpass 2019 EBITDA.

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