JetBlue Airways Corporation (JBLU), US Airways Group Inc (LCC): This Airline Is Best for Your Portfolio and Your Next Trip

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2011 airline quality rating score (industry average= 1.1)

Airline Score
US Airways 1.13
United .93
Delta .8
JetBlue .6
Southwest .93

(Source: Purdue University)

Airlines were judged on denied boardings (bumps), mishandled baggage, customer complaints, and on-time performance. In this case, the better scores are the smaller scores, meaning JetBlue Airways Corporation (NASDAQ:JBLU) received the best rating.

United in the first quarter of 2013 posted its best on-time performance in a decade, with 81% of domestic flights arriving on time. But the improvement is still not up to par with the rest of the competition. In the year ending in April, United was second worst in its class, with a 77% on-time rate, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data.

“Fortune Magazine” declared Delta the “most admired airline” for 2013. The Delta stock has increased nearly 70% in the past six months, and currently trades at the high-end of its 52 week range. The company has seen consistent and impressive growth over the past three years, and has the potential to continue to steadily grow. Delta carries little debt compared to the rest of the airline industry, which carries high debt.

Not only was US Airways Group Inc (NYSE:LCC) rated worst among the big three airlines, but US Airways earnings have seen a lot of turbulence over the past four years. Most recently, the company had revenue of approximately $3.4 billion for the quarter, a hair higher than analyst expectations. Revenue was up 3.5% compared to the same quarter last year. Things are looking better, but the company has a long way to go both in customer service, and in consistent earnings before it can be considered a safe bet.

JetBlue operates nearly 180 aircraft across the US, Caribbean and Latin America. Earnings-per-share growth comes in at an impressive 30%, and analysts expect it to continue. The company may not have the most dramatic increase in sales, but that is because it hasn’t suffered from the nausea-inducing turbulence the other airlines suffer from. Steady and consistent growth and a smooth ride are far more impressive and reliable when it comes to investing.

Bottom line

Is there a real correlation between earnings and airline quality? These numbers almost seem to indicate that there could be- JetBlue ranks well on both, and US Airways Group Inc (NYSE:LCC) does not. But these are merely coincidences that do not take into account the mergers, takeovers, fuel prices, bad weather, etc., that truly effect the bottom line.

A quality survey is not a trustworthy indicator for investment purposes, but it couldn’t hurt to factor it in for long-term investment analysis. Either way, JetBlue appears to be both a wise investment and a safe bet for your next trip. If you prefer a little more adrenaline in your stocks and flights, any of the “big three” promise a white-knuckled grip as the hopefully climb higher.

The article This Airline Is Best for Your Portfolio and Your Next Trip originally appeared on and is written by Erin McBride.

Erin McBride has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Southwest Airlines. Erin is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network — entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

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