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SkyWest's (SKYW) February Block Hours Rise, Load Factor Falls

Zacks Equity Research

SkyWest, Inc. SKYW reported year-over-year increase in block hours (a measure of aircraft utilization). Notably, this key metric improved 6.1% (6,206) to 107,300 in February 2019. The addition of the new E175 jet to the regional carrier’s fleet since last February 2018 led to this upside.

In February, SkyWest’s dual class fleet (E175, CRJ900 and CRJ700) accounted for 65.8% of the carrier’s total block-hour production compared with approximately 58.8% a year ago. Post the sale of ExpressJet Airlines to ManaAir LLC — a United Airlines joint venture — in January, SkyWest Airlines accounted for the entire block-hour production. The year-ago figures also exclude ExpressJet for comparability purpose.

However, load factor (percentage of seats filled with passengers) at SkyWest contracted 140 basis points to 78.3%. Nevertheless, the number of departures and passenger count increased 4% and 0.6%, respectively, in the month.

Apart from the traffic report, the carrier was in news last month when it announced that the board of directors has approved a new share repurchase program worth $250 million. Also, the carrier raised its quarterly dividend. The carrier hiked its quarterly dividend to 12 cents per share, representing a 20% improvement from the previous payout of 10 cents. The new dividend, which has been sanctioned by the company’s board of directors, will be paid on Apr 4, 2019, to its stockholders of record as of Mar 29. (Read more: SkyWest Rewards Investors With Dividend Hike & New Buyback)

Price Performance

Shares of SkyWest have performed impressively in the past three months. The stock has gained 4.7% compared with the industry’s growth of 0.8%.

Zacks Rank & Other Stocks to Consider

SkyWest currently carries a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Investors interested in the Zacks Transportation Sector may consider Azul S.A. AZUL, Frontline Ltd. FRO and Expeditors International of Washington, Inc. EXPD, each sporting a Zacks Rank #1. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

All the three stocks boast an impressive earnings surprise history. Azul outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate in each of the trailing four quarters, the average being 97.9%. Frontline outpaced the consensus mark in three of the trailing four quarters, with average of 46.1%. Expeditors outpaced the consensus mark in each of the trailing four quarters, the average being 14.5%.

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