Southwest Airlines announced demand is not diminishing because of fare increases brought about by rising fuel costs (Dow Jones, 25-Feb-2011). Chief executive Gary Kelly stated the carrier can cope with jet fuel at its present level of USD3 a gallon but if it gets to the USD3.30 range there will be cause for concern.
Southwest Airlines states demand is not diminishing
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Emirates has multiple reasons for cutting back on US capacity
As the most conspicuous and largest, Emirates Airline often takes on its shoulders the increasingly difficult task of defending Gulf aviation. Emirates often single handedly represents the Gulf and "Middle East Big 3", in much the same way as Dubai carries regional geopolitics.
Just as there are significant differences between the Big 3 US airlines who have strenuously opposed the Gulf carriers in the US market, so Emirates is fundamentally different from its peers: it is longer established, has a larger home market and has had a more commercial mandate from the beginning.
Yet Emirates must compete in a market where many others would like a piece of that market. Just as Dubai Inc modelled itself in many ways on Singapore Inc, there are many who would follow the same trail. This does not lead to steady market conditions.
Certainly the policies of US President Trump have hurt aviation and tourism. But Emirates' announcement of a 19% reduction in services to the United States is less about US policies and more about the nature of the market forces that started before Trump was even a serious Presidential contender.
Southwest Airlines and jetBlue take different paths to sustaining balance sheet strength
At nearly 46 years old and 17 years old, respectively, Southwest and jetBlue approach their financial priorities differently. jetBlue is in the process of buying a certain level of aircraft off lease to reduce debt and raise its levels of unencumbered aircraft. Southwest is concluding a hefty investment in a long overdue overhaul of its reservations system and making other significant technology investments.
Each airline also has a different capital allocation strategy. Southwest has engaged in some level of shareholder returns since the 1990s, whereas jetBlue’s shareholder return strategy is just starting to take shape – the airline is reaching a point in its leverage performance where it can contemplate more meaningful levels of shareholder returns in the medium term.
One area where Southwest and jetBlue hold similar visions is balance sheet strength, and the airlines have similar leverage goals: to support capex commitments, maintain manageable debt levels, and expand or sustain return to shareholders.