US Airways believes carriers are shielded from market jitters

Washington DC
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Continuing fears over the eurozone debt crisis, high US unemployment and concerns over slowing economies in emerging markets have done little to dampen a bullish demand outlook by US carriers.

US Airways president Scott Kirby remains confident an uptick in demand that began in mid-July and continued through mid-September will not wane.

Kirby believes demand sits in the 90th percentile. "We feel very good about the demand environment," Kirby recently said at an investor conference. "The pricing environment remains strong. Bookings remain strong." Kirby's sentiments are in stark contrast to fears of European credit markets collapsing and high unemployment in the USA. He admits that while the demand outlook is "completely disconnected from the headlines", taking a step back from those broader issues to examine their effect on airlines helps dissolve the disconnect between the ebullient airline outlook and macro market jitters.

Kirby theorises that while the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the bailout of Bear Stearns were genuine shocks that triggered a sudden drop in confidence, the European outcome "will not be nearly as traumatic".

Aside from high unemployment, Kirby believes all other economic statistics in the US remain steady.

He views possible slowing growth in emerging markets as a "net good thing", explaining the "positive impact on oil prices, certainly for US-based airlines", outweighs any revenue pressure carriers might feel if those economies cool down. "The macro outlook for airlines is just not that bad," says Kirby, who surmises "the best of all worlds for airlines" could occur with a "slow growing economy like we have today, where you have moderating fuel prices and modest growth in airline revenues".

For more on the US airline financial outlook, see our second quarter analysis