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Alaska Air Group Load Factor Dips in March, Q1 View Upbeat

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Alaska Air Group, Inc. (ALK - Free Report) reported traffic statistics for March. Traffic, measured in revenue passenger miles (RPMs), inched up 0.5% to 4.68 billion.

Also, on a year-over-year basis, consolidated capacity (or available seat miles/ASMs) rose 1.3% to 5.56 billion. Meanwhile, load factor or percentage of seats filled by passengers dipped 70 basis points (bps) to 84.2% as traffic growth was outpaced by capacity expansion.

In the first three months of 2019, the carrier generated RPMs of 12.45 billion (up 0.4% year over year) and ASMs of 15.51 billion (up 0.2% year over year). Also, load factor improved 20 bps to 80.3%.

Bullish Q1 View

The company has raised its unit revenue guidance owing to a better-than-expected close-in pricing on trans-continental Californian flights. It now anticipates revenue per ASM (RASM) in the range of 12.08-12.10 cents, reflecting an increase of 2.1%. The previous view was in the band of 11.97-12.07 cents.

Alaska Air Group’s non-fuel unit cost guidance for the quarter has also improved on account of solid cost control measures among other factors. Cost per ASM excluding fuel and special items is now projected between 9.06 cents and 9.08 cents (representing 3% increase year over year) compared with 9.16-9.21 cents expected earlier.

Additionally, fuel costs are now projected to dip 0.5% year over year to $2.13 per gallon (past view: $2.14). First-quarter effective tax rate is expected to be 25% while the same for the full year is envisioned at 26%.

Zacks Rank & Key Picks

Alaska Air Group carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Some better-ranked stocks in the same space are Swire Pacific Ltd. SWRAY, Azul AZUL and Delta Air Lines, Inc. DAL. While Swire Pacific sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), Azul and Delta carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Shares of Swire Pacific and Azul have rallied more than 21%, each in the past six months while the Delta stock has gained more than 11%.

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