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 over the past year. Some airlines have begun to notice improvements in the most recent quarter.

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 21.5% over the past 12 months, below the Russell 1000's total return of 33.4%. These market performance numbers and all statistics in the tables below are as of March 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 ($) Market Cap ($M) 12-Month Trailing P/E Ratio
Mesa Air Group Inc. ( MESA) 13.96 496.5 16.2
Chorus Aviation Inc. ( CHR.TO) CA$4.90 CA$793.2 20.4
Exchange Income Corp. ( EIF.TO) CA$40.39 CA$1,434 52.5

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. Mesa announced in early February financial results for Q1 of its 2021 fiscal year (FY), the three-month period ended December 31, 2020. Net income for the quarter rose 30.9% despite an 18.3% decline in operating revenues. The primary driver of the net income increase was recognition of $11.3 million granted under the U.S. CARES Act, which was passed in early 2020 to address the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite falling volume, the company said it has remained cash flow positive throughout the pandemic.
  • Chorus Aviation Inc.: Chorus Aviation is a Canada-based regional airline operator. It provides regional aviation services and aircraft leasing. The company announced in mid-February financial results for FY 2020, which ended December 31, 2020. Annual net income fell 68.8% as operating revenue declined 30.6% for the year as the pandemic reduced passenger travel and other volume.
  • Exchange Income Corp.: Exchange Income is a Canada-based acquisition-oriented company focused on opportunities in aerospace and aviation services and equipment.

Airline Stocks With Most Profit Growth or Least Profit Decline

These are the airline stocks with the highest year-over-year (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 (%)
Mesa Air Group Inc. (MESA) 13.96 0.5 25.8
Singapore Airlines Ltd. ( SINGY) 7.68 4.6 11.5
Controladora Vuela Compañía de Aviación SAB de CV ( VLRS) 15.41 1.8 -37.3

Source: YCharts

  • Mesa Air Group Inc.: See above for company description.
  • Singapore Airlines Ltd.: Singapore Airlines is a Singapore-based provider of passenger and cargo air transportation. It also offers pilot training, air charter, and tour wholesaling services.
  • 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 announced in mid-February financial results for FY 2020, which ended December 31, 2020. It reported a net loss of $215 million as operating revenues for the year fell 36.2%. Volaris said that significant challenges remain related to the pandemic, but said it saw signs of improvement in the fourth quarter.

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 (%)
Mesa Air Group Inc. (MESA) 13.96 0.5 142.4
Allegiant Travel Co. ( ALGT) 258.17 4.2 112.0
Controladora Vuela Compañía de Aviación SAB de CV (VLRS) 15.41 1.8 76.1
Russell 1000 N/A N/A 33.4
U.S. Global Jets ETF (JETS) N/A N/A 21.5

Source: YCharts

  • Mesa Air Group Inc.: See above for company description.
  • Allegiant Travel Co.: Allegiant Travel operates as a global leisure travel company. It offers flight transport, hotel booking, car rentals, travel management, and other related services. The company announced in early February financial results for FY 2020, which ended December 31, 2020. Allegiant reported a net loss of 184.1 million for the year as annual revenue fell 46.2%. It noted that its load factor, a measure of total seating capacity that is filled with passengers, rose to 58.2% in the fourth quarter. That load factor was the highest level since the onset of the pandemic, even though it was down sharply from 82.1% in fourth quarter of 2019.
  • Controladora Vuela Compañía de Aviación SAB de CV: See above for company description.

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