Hawaiian Airlines has had a bumpy ride on Wall Street over the last two weeks, with its stock price tumbling a staggering 24 percent after the company revised its revenue estimates for the fourth quarter.
Shares of Hawaii’s dominant airline closed at just over $29 on Tuesday, down from $38 on Dec. 4, before the company updated its revenue guidance. All told, the company’s market value has dropped by more than $400 million in recent days.
It’s not that business is bad for the Honolulu-based carrier, Hawaiian’s chief executive Peter Ingram and other senior executives explained during a nearly three-hour conference call with investors Tuesday.
The airline has a new fleet of planes, expanded routes and a joint venture with Japan Airlines awaiting regulatory approval. It also posted net income of $201.5 million on revenue of $1.96 billion during the first three quarters of 2018 – enough to spin off a nice dividend to shareholders.
Even with competition from low-cost Southwest Airlines scheduled to start soon, Hawaiian is flying high.
But the growth seems to have slowed, at least temporarily.
Specifically, Hawaiian expects its average prices for mainland flights for the end of 2018 to be lower than expected, while demand for flights to neighbor islands, mainly Hawaii Island, also softened. Chalk it up to increased competition, storms and the Kilauea volcano.
“It has been an unusual year,” Ingram said during the call from Hawaiian’s “Investor Day” meeting in New York. “We saw a lot of capacity come into the market last year. We expect there may be some more capacity coming next year competitively.”
Still, Ingram stressed that the company, which is one of Hawaii’s largest private employers with approximately 7,200 workers, plans to stay the course in 2019. The company in 2018 expanded service to include flights between places like Maui and Portland, Kona and Los Angeles and Lihue and Los Angeles, among other routes.
It plans to provide direct service from Honolulu to Boston starting in April. Hawaiian is the No. 1 carrier between Hawaii and the West Coast, with a 38 percent share of the market.
Ingram said Hawaiian will continue to exploit what it sees as its competitive advantages, which include its genuinely Hawaiian brand and the only route network centered in Hawaii.
“We will win with this strategy, and we’re going to execute it even better going forward,” he said.
Still, losing more than $400 million in market value in a week is hardly a good thing. And while other airline stocks have lagged during 2018, Hawaiian has fared worse, Zacks Investment Researchreported.
The Motley Fool explained the situation succinctly: “Too many planes and too few passengers resulted in more empty seats failing to generate revenue for Hawaiian.”
More precisely, as Hawaiian explained it, here’s what happened: In October, Hawaiian had projected that its operating revenue per available seat mile for the fourth quarter might be up about 0.5 percent from the same time last year, but could also be down as much as 2.5 percent.
Sometimes referred to as “operating unit revenues,” operating revenue per available seat mile basically says how much revenue an airline produced based on how many seats it carried, whether full or empty, and for how many miles during a particular period.
But earlier this month, Hawaiian warned investors operating revenue per seat mile would be down considerably more than Hawaiian projected in October: 3 to 5 percent from the previous year.
The company attributed the change to lower-than-expected pricing for North American fares and lower demand for interisland flights.
During the conference call, Ingram elaborated, saying increased competition had driven fares lower and that a decline in demand for travel to the Big Island, caused by hurricanes and the Kilauea eruption, had an impact as well.
One issue not discussed during the call was Southwest. The discount carrier was expected to start service by the end of 2018; however, that now seems unlikely.
Earlier this week, the trade publication Flight Global quoted a Southwest official as saying it was close to getting regulatory approvals for the service, but there’s been no official announcement.
Southwest has said it will fly to Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego and San Jose, and provide inter-island service.
Southwest’s media relations office would not comment Tuesday.
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