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Air-Travel Demand Boosts SkyWest (SKYW) Despite Low Liquidity

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SkyWest, Inc. (SKYW - Free Report) currently benefits from increased air-travel demand. However, its weak balance sheet is a challenge.

SkyWest reported first-quarter 2022 earnings of 35 cents per share, surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 3 cents. In the year-ago quarter, SKYW reported earnings of 71 cents. However, the 50.7% year-over-year decline in earnings was due to the 50.6% rise in total costs. Revenues of $735.2 million outperformed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $667.3 million. The top line jumped 37.53% year over year.

How is SkyWest Faring?

With improvement in air-travel demand, SkyWest carried 72.2% and 53.9% more passengers in 2021 and first-quarter 2022, respectively, than the corresponding year-ago levels. As a result, passenger load factor (percentage of seats filled by passengers) expanded 1820 basis points to 74.6% in 2021. The measure increased 20.9 percentage points to 77.6% in first-quarter 2022.  With air-travel demand continuing to improve, load factor is likely to be impressive in the remaining quarters of 2022 as well.

SkyWest's fleet-modernization efforts are commendable as well. To upgrade its fleet, SkyWest entered into an agreement with Delta to purchase and operate 16 new E175 aircraft in August. Per the agreement, the 16 new E175 aircraft will come online by early 2023.

SkyWest's current ratio at the end of the first quarter of 2022 was 0.94. A current ratio of less than 1 does not bode well as it implies that the company may have problems in meeting its short-term debt obligations.

Rising operating expenses raise a concern for SkyWest. In first-quarter 2022, expenses related to salary, wages and benefits increased 36.5% year over year. Aircraft fuel cost surged 30.6% in the March quarter with oil prices moving north. Due to the increase in the components, total operating costs (up 50.5% in first-quarter 2022) are escalating and limiting bottom-line growth. The fact that more planes are in operation to meet the spike in demand for air travel also contributed to the rise in fuel expenses.

Zacks Rank & Key Picks

SkyWest currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see  the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Some better-ranked stocks in the broader Zacks Transportation sector are Ryder System, Inc. (R - Free Report) , C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc. (CHRW - Free Report) and GATX Corporation (GATX - Free Report) ).

Ryder has a trailing-four quarter surprise of 48.2%, on average, with its earnings having surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate in all the last four quarters. R is benefiting from improving economic and freight conditions in the United States.

Revenues in all segments grew (on higher rental revenues, new business and favorable pricing) in first-quarter 2022. R currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

The expected long-term (three-to-five years) earnings per share (EPS) growth rate for C.H. Robinson is pegged at 9%. Better freight market conditions are aiding CHRW.

In first-quarter 2022, the top line improved 41.8% owing to favorable truckload pricing for customers and handsome profits in ocean freight. CHRW currently sports a Zacks Rank #1.

GATX has a trailing-four quarter surprise of 40.1%, on average, with its earnings having surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate in all the last four quarters.

The gradual improvement in the North American railcar leasing market is a boon for GATX. GATX currently has a Zacks Rank of 2.