NEW YORK -- Airline stocks have slumped in recent months, dragged down by ice storms, images of irate passengers, and rising oil prices.
The Amex Airline Index, which tracks 11 network, low-cost, and regional airlines, is down about 18 percent since a mid-January peak, and Wall Street has been busy chopping estimates for first-quarter results. Many of those same analysts, though, are still positive on the industry, as it heads into its most profitable part of the year.
With that sentiment, Calyon Securities analyst Ray Neidl titled a recent research report simply: "Spring has sprung. Time to buy airline stocks."
Since January, the airline industry has faced a series of setbacks. US Airways Group Inc. dropped its $9.8 billion hostile bid for Delta Air Lines Inc., dashing investors' hopes of possible industry consolidation that was expected to benefit all participants.
Harsh winter storms forced thousands of cancellations and delays, and JetBlue Airways Corp. faced withering criticism for keeping some passengers waiting on planes for as long as 11 hours during a Valentine's Day storm. The low-cost carrier has since implemented a customer's bill of rights.
Crude oil, meanwhile, has climbed back above $60 per barrel pressuring airlines which count jet fuel among their biggest costs.