Airline stocks in 2020 has dropped the most in years. American Airlines’ share price lost 45%, its biggest percentage decline since before the carrier’s 2013 merger with US Airways.
Delta Airlines’ stock lost 31%, while United Airlines fell 51% over the last 12 months, its biggest drop since 2008. Southwest shed 14%.
The S&P 500, meanwhile, rose by more than 16% in 2020.
The pandemic forced carriers to quickly shrink, cut routes and park hundreds of jets. U.S. carriers’ increased their total debt by $67 billion in 2020 to more than $172 billion to weather the crisis, according to trade group Airlines for America. Paying that down will be a headwind over the next several years.
On the bright side, air travel demand has recovered a lot of ground compared with the volumes hit early in the pandemic.
On April 16, The Transportation Security Administration screened 95,085 people at U.S. airports, less than 4-percent of the 2.6 million people that had passed through those checkpoints a year earlier. TSA airport screenings, fueled in part by the yearend holidays, surpassed 1 million people a day in the last five days through Wednesday, though that’s still down about 45% from a year earlier.
Many potential customers are still not flying as coronavirus infections rise to ever higher records, new travel restrictions are implemented and government officials recommend avoiding travel to slow the spread of the disease.