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, have led to plunging demand for airline travel and severely impacted the airline industry this year. Volume has recovered in recent months for some carriers, but remains down sharply from a year ago.

Airline stocks, as represented by U.S. Global Jets ETF (JETS), an airline ETF, have dramatically underperformed the broader market. JETS has provided a total return of -27.1%, well below the Russell 1000's total return of 21.9% over the past 12 months, as of December 2, 2020. All statistics in the tables below are also as of December 2.

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
Chorus Aviation Inc. (CHR.TO) CA$4.28 CA$0.7 10.2
SkyWest Inc. (SKYW) 44.46 2.2 20.5
Exchange Income Corp. (EIF.TO) CA$38.62 CA$1.4 34.5

Source: YCharts

  • Chorus Aviation Inc.: Chorus Aviation is a Canada-based holding company that offers scheduled passenger services, through subsidiaries Chorus Aviation Capital, Jazz Aviation, and Voyageur Aviation. The company offers contract flying, aircraft leasing, and maintenance services. For Q3 2020, Chorus reported a 44.1% year-over-year (YOY) decline in operating revenue and a 15.4% YOY decline in net income. The company attributed the drops to the COVID-19 pandemic, although they were partially offset by a significant YOY decrease in operating expenses.
  • SkyWest Inc.: SkyWest is a holding company that operates regional airlines offering scheduled passenger services to destinations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
  • Exchange Income Corp.: Exchange Income is a Canada-based diversified company focused on aviation and manufacturing. It provides scheduled airline and charter service as well as emergency medical services to select regions throughout Canada. The company also offers metal manufacturing goods and related services. For Q3 2020, Exchange Income reported a 16.3% YOY decline in revenue and a 40.5% YOY drop in net earnings. The company reported that passenger volumes reached as high as 60% of capacity, up from a low of 10% of capacity, before the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hurt travel.

Airline Stocks With Most Profit Growth or Least Profit Decline

These are the airline stocks with the highest YOY earnings per share (EPS) growth or lowest EPS decline for the most recent quarter. A company’s ability to maintain profitability in a difficult business environment can be a sign of good management and/or a strong business model.

Airline Stocks With Most Profit Growth or Least Profit Decline

 

Price ($) Market Cap ($B) EPS Growth (%)
Copa Holdings SA (CPA) 82.71 3.5 404.0
Chorus Aviation Inc. (CHR.TO) CA$4.28 CA$0.7 -20.0
Exchange Income Corp. (EIF.TO) CA$38.62 CA$1.4 -42.2

Source: YCharts

  • Copa Holdings SA: Copa Holdings is a Panama-based international airline passenger and cargo service company. The company provides flights throughout the Americas and the Caribbean. On November 17, the company reported monthly traffic results for October, including a load factor of 69.9%, down from 85.0% in October 2019. This metric reflects the percentage of aircraft seating capacity that is actually utilized.
  • Chorus Aviation Inc.: See above for company description.
  • Exchange Income Corp.: See above for company description.

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 (%)
Ryanair Holdings PLC (RYAAY) 106.60 24.0 29.0
Controladora Vuela Compania de Aviacion S.A.B. de CV (VLRS) 11.20 1.1 10.1
Allegiant Travel Co. (ALGT) 174.13 2.9 3.3
Russell 1000 N/A N/A 21.9
U.S. Global Jets ETF (JETS) N/A N/A -27.1

Source: YCharts

  • Ryanair Holdings PLC: Ryanair is an Ireland-based airline company that offers low fare passenger airline services to destinations in Europe. The company also offers ancillary services connected to its core air passenger service, such as non-flight scheduled services. Ryanair saw an 81.6% YOY decline in November passenger traffic. Still, the company has continued to expand its fleet, ordering an additional 75 Boeing Max-8200 aircraft. The new orders boost Ryanair's total of Max-8200 purchases to 210, with a value of more than $22 billion, to be fully delivered by late 2024. 
  • Controladora Vuela Compania de Aviacion SAB de CV: Also known as Volaris, the Mexico-based Controladora Vuela Compania de Aviacion, S.A.B. de C.V. is a low-cost airline carrier. The company provides air service in the Americas. For November 2020, the company reported a booked load factor of 80.5% compared to 98.0% in the same month a year earlier.
  • Allegiant Travel Co.: Allegiant Travel offers leisure travel services, including flight transport, hotel booking, car rentals, travel management, and other related services. The company serves customers worldwide.

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