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Top-Performing Airlines Study

Aviation news: bigger is not always better

Jul 13, 2010

During the global economic crisis, which airline management teams have best capitalized on opportunities? According to Aviation Week's Top-Performing Airlines study, Alaska Air Group ranked first among mainline/legacy carriers; Allegiant Travel Co. is the highest ranked in the low-cost/niche category; and Australia's Regional Express Holdings is the top regional carrier.

Strong management, regardless of size, is a primary distinguishing factor for top carriers. "Airlines with the leadership ability to maintain strong liquidity, good financial health, cost discipline, and a focus on efficiency are those in the best position to take advantage of recovering demand," said Michael Lowry, Top-Performing Airlines project manager. "It is not about size - being nimble is paying off for Alaska Airlines and others."

"For some smaller airlines, steering clear of mergers and alliances has proven to be an advantage in a very difficult operating environment," said Adrian Schofield, senior air transport editor, Aviation Week. Indeed, half of the top ten mainline carriers in Aviation Week's competitiveness study have annual revenues of less than US$5 billion, and three of these, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Copa Airlines, are not in alliances.

For this study, Aviation Week's highly regarded Top-Performing Companies approach is tailored specifically for airlines. Based on proprietary data, as well as insights from an advisory panel of prominent airline analysts, the PricewaterhouseCoopers-sponsored study provides a precise measure of strengths, weaknesses, and financial viability. The data and rankings are a frequently-cited industry baseline for determining which carriers are likely to flourish and those that are still vulnerable based on business models, geographic regions, and the industry landscape overall.

Top Ten Mainline/Legacy Airlines:

1. Alaska Air Group Inc.
2. Singapore Airlines Ltd.
3. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd.
4. LAN Airlines SA
5. Qantas Airways Ltd.
6. Hawaiian Holdings Inc.
7. Deutsche Lufthansa AG
8. Turk Hava Yollari AO
10. Copa Holdings, SA

Top Ten Low-Cost/Niche Airlines:

1. Allegiant Travel Co.
2. Ryanair Holdings plc
3. Air Arabia PJSC
4. Aegean Airlines SA
5. AirAsia Berhad
6. Hainan Airlines Co. Ltd.
7. WestJet Airlines Ltd.
8. Southwest Airlines Co.
9. AirTran Holdings, Inc.
10. Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA

Regional Express Holdings, Ltd. is the highest ranked regional carrier.

Launched in 1996, Aviation Week's Top-Performing Companies studies identify strong and weak performers in the aerospace, defense and airline industries. Proprietary metrics have been refined over the past 14 years with input from industry leaders to include scores in five categories: liquidity, financial health, fuel cost management, earnings performance, and asset utilization.

For a breakdown of airline scores and rankings, visit or view the Top-Performing Companies webinar on-demand, . The study is included in this week's issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology, as well as in online articles and a microsite.

Aviation news: bigger is not always better
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