The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Delta Air Lines, Virgin America, American Airlines Group, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines - Press Releases

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL - April 17, 2015 - announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include the Delta Air Lines Inc. ( DAL - Free Report ), Virgin America ( VA - Free Report ), American Airlines Group Inc. ( AAL - Free Report ), JetBlue Airways Corp. ( JBLU - Free Report ) and Southwest Airlines Co. ( LUV - Free Report ).

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free .

Here are highlights from Thursday's Analyst Blog:

Airline Stock Roundup

It was a week which saw airline behemoth Delta Air Lines Inc. ( DAL - Free Report ) kick-starting the first quarter 2015 earnings season within the aviation space. Delta beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of earnings by a penny - the ninth successive quarterly earnings beat at the company.

On the non-earnings front, California-based low-cost carrier Virgin America ( VA - Free Report ) retained its position as the top U.S. carrier for the third successive year, according to the Airline Quality Rating (AQR) report. In addition, American Airlines Group Inc. ( AAL - Free Report ) announced disappointing traffic results for the month of March. The company also said that it expects passenger revenue per available seat mile (PRASM: a measure of unit revenue) to decline in the range of 1% to 3% in the first quarter of 2015.

Low-cost airline JetBlue Airways Corp. ( JBLU - Free Report ) announced healthy traffic numbers for March, apart from raising its PRASM forecast for the first quarter. Southwest Airlines Co. ( LUV - Free Report ), which also announced higher air traffic for March, voiced its intention to operate flights between Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and Denver.

The price movement of stocks in the airline space remained subdued over the past week with the NYSE ARCA Airline index gaining a mere 0.6% over the said period.

(Read the last Airline Stock Roundup for Apr 9, 2015 ).

Recap of the Most Important Stories over the Past Week

1. Delta Air Lines reported mixed results in the first quarter of 2015 reporting higher-than-expected earnings but lower-than-expected revenues. Results were aided by weak fuel costs. To reduce the adverse impact of foreign exchange on its international operations Delta announced that it will slash its international capacity by 3% on a year-over-year basis this winter.

System capacity is expected to be flat in the fourth quarter of 2015 in view of the international capacity cut and the 2% growth in the domestic front. Delta announced these measures in order to bring the key metric - PRASM - back on the growth track. PRASM was down 2% in the first quarter of 2015 (read more: Delta Tops Q1 Earnings by a Penny, Revenues Miss the Mark ).

2. Virgin America, partly owned by British billionaire investor Richard Branson, secured the top score of -0.30 among the 12 U.S. carriers evaluated in the AQR report. The comparable score for the carrier in 2013 was -0.32.

The report, however, painted a bleak picture with respect to the overall performance of the airline industry in 2014 as the AQR industry score of -1.24 hit a major five-year low hinting at increased harassments for fliers (read more: Virgin America Named Best US Airline 3rd Time in a Row ).

3. American Airlines Group announced that total revenue passenger miles (RPMs) - a measure of air traffic - declined 0.6% in the month of March with capacity falling 0.9%. Load factor (% of seats filled with passengers) increased 30 basis points to 82.1% in March 2015. The company further said that it projects PRASM for the first quarter of 2015 to decline in the range of 1% to 3%. Pre-tax margin (excluding special items) for the quarter is expected in the band of 12% and 13% (old guidance 12% to 14%). The tepid guidance was in view of a strong dollar.

4. JetBlue Airways announced a 9.2% increase in its March RPMs with capacity climbing 6.2%. Load factor expanded 240 basis points in March 2015 to 87.2%. PRASM improved 8%. Buoyed by the healthy traffic data, the carrier raised its PRASM guidance for the first quarter of 2015. The carrier now foresees 4.5% growth in the metric as opposed to 3% to 4% projected earlier.

5. Southwest Airlines said that its RPMs improved 6.7% in March 2015 with capacity climbing 4.4%. Load factor improved 180 basis points to 84.5% in the month with PRASM increasing approximately 1%. For the first quarter of 2015, RPMs improved 7.1% on the back of a 6% capacity rise. Quarterly load factor improved 80 basis points to 80.1%.

Furthermore, the carrier said that it has sought permission from the U.S. Department of Transportation to operate non-stop daily flights between Denver and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico from Nov 2015. Following approval, Puerto Vallarta will become the third non-stop Mexican destination for fliers from Denver.

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free .

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DELTA AIR LINES (DAL): Free Stock Analysis Report

VIRGIN AMERICA (VA): Free Stock Analysis Report

AMER AIRLINES (AAL): Free Stock Analysis Report

JETBLUE AIRWAYS (JBLU): Free Stock Analysis Report

SOUTHWEST AIR (LUV): Free Stock Analysis Report

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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