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 have seen 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 23.5% over the past 12 months, below the 39.0% total return of the iShares Russell 1000 ETF (IWB). These market performance numbers and all statistics in the tables below are as of Sept. 8, 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 ($) Market Cap ($B) 12-Month Trailing P/E Ratio
SkyWest Inc. (SKYW) 45.93 2.3 27.7
Sun Country Airlines Holdings Inc. (SNCY) 32.62 1.9 33.3
Allegiant Travel Co. (ALGT) 194.01 3.5 84.4

Source: YCharts

  • SkyWest Inc.: SkyWest is a regional airline that operates through its subsidiaries SkyWest Airlines and SkyWest Leasing as well as through partnerships with United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines. SkyWest also offers travel, car hire, booking, and similar services to customers worldwide. It offers flights between hundreds of cities throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
  • Sun Country Airlines Holdings Inc.: Sun Country Airlines Holdings operates Sun Country Airlines, a low-cost air carrier. The company offers leisure travel with scheduled passenger service to more than 50 popular destinations in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Travelers can also book vacation packages on the company's website. Sun Country Airlines announced in late July financial results for Q2 of its 2021 fiscal year (FY), ended June 30, 2021. The company posted net income of $51.8 million, a significant improvement from the net loss of $6.0 million in the year-ago quarter. Total operating revenue increased 321.5% year over year (YOY). The company said that its strong second quarter results were driven by the continued rebound in leisure travel.
  • Allegiant Travel Co.: Allegiant Travel is an integrated travel company. It provides scheduled and charter airline services throughout the U.S. and charter service to Canada and Mexico. The company also offers hotel booking, car rentals, travel management, and other related services. Allegiant Travel announced in late July financial results for Q2 FY 2021, ended June 30, 2021. The company reported net income of $95.0 million, a significant turnaround from the net loss of $93.1 million in the year-ago quarter. Total operating revenue rose 254.3% YOY. The company said that leisure travel demand returned to pre-pandemic levels during the second quarter.

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 (%)
Copa Holdings SA (CPA) 77.26 3.3 N/A (see company description) 1,990
Controladora Vuela Compañía de Aviación SAB de CV (VLRS) 20.49 2.4 N/A (see company description) 760.8
JetBlue Airways Corp. (JBLU) 15.00 4.8 N/A (see company description) 597.2

Source: YCharts

  • Copa Holdings SA: Copa Holdings is a Panama-based provider of airline passenger and cargo services through its two primary operating subsidiaries, Copa Airlines and Copa Colombia. The company offers flights to 80 destinations in 33 countries throughout North, Central, and South America, and the Caribbean. It also offers access to flights to more than 200 other destinations through partnerships with other airlines. Because the company's EPS went from negative in the year-ago quarter to positive in the most recent quarter, an EPS growth rate could not be calculated for the table above.
  • 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 primarily serves budget-conscious business travelers and leisure travelers bound for destinations in Mexico, the U.S., and Central America. Because the company's EPS went from negative in the year-ago quarter to positive in the most recent quarter, an EPS growth rate could not be calculated for the table above.
  • JetBlue Airways Corp.: JetBlue Airways is an air carrier that provides passenger services to destinations throughout the U.S., the Caribbean, and Latin America. The company recently announced the appointment of Ursula Hurley as chief financial officer (CFO). Hurley has worked with JetBlue for 17 years and was interim CFO since June 2021. Because the company's EPS went from negative in the year-ago quarter to positive in the most recent quarter, an EPS growth rate could not be calculated for the table above.

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) 20.49 2.4 148.1
Azul SA (AZUL) 21.54 2.5 53.8
Hawaiian Holdings Inc. (HA) 20.21 1.0 46.0
iShares Russell 1000 ETF (IWB) N/A N/A 39.0
U.S. Global Jets ETF (JETS) N/A N/A 23.5

Source: YCharts

  • Controladora Vuela Compañía de Aviación SAB de CV: See above for company description.
  • Azul SA: Azul is a Brazil-based company offering a variety of airline services worldwide. Through its subsidiaries, Azul provides passenger and cargo air transportation and related services.
  • Hawaiian Holdings Inc.: Hawaiian Holdings provides air transportation of passengers, cargo, and mail. The company offers services among the Hawaiian Islands as well as between Hawaii and other select destinations, including certain cities in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and the South Pacific. Hawaiian Holdings announced in late July financial results for Q2 FY 2021, ended June 30, 2021. The company's net loss narrowed to $6.2 million from $106.9 million in the year-ago quarter as total operating revenue rose nearly seven-fold YOY. The company said that its business continued to recover amid a sharp rebound in demand for its U.S. mainland routes.

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