News & Analysis

Airline stock hits rock bottom after months of travel-related coercion

Andrew Saks, Wednesday, 14 July 2021

What does the future hold for the budget airlines?

Judging by the array of political coercion that has once again been spilled across the front pages of the tabloids, a bleak one appears to be the answer to that.

Catastrophic share price crashes once again have occurred, with Jet2 having declined by 42 points (3.72%) since the beginning of trading this morning, and easyJet down 29.6 points (3.37%).

These percentages may appear small on the face of it, but they are yet again news-driven downturns, adding to the continuing downward spiral for the long-suffering airlines which find themselves in the midst of what appears similar to pre-war communist capital control systems being put in place by European and British governments.

Over the past month, easyJet stock has collapsed by 84 points (9.05%), Jet2 by 41.5 points (3.61%), and LSE-listed Hungarian company Wizz Air down 263.5 points (5.61%) largely because these are short to medium distance airlines whose entire coverage area is Europe, and the Eastern Mediterranean, all of which are subject to the lockdowns and travel restrictions that never seem to end.

Of course, it is possible to travel, but the cost of adhering to the bureaucratic 'you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' PCR testing that is needed, no less than four tests per person at an average cost of £600, negates the value of budget travel.

That'll be a nice little earner for the big companies with government contracts, and another step toward an illiberal society which these airlines helped to liberate.

The tabloid press continues to put out the speculation that travel will be difficult, prohibitively expensive or overtly testing-dependent, hence the budget airlines are experiencing far less revenue.

The once free British public have been empowered exponentially over the past thirty years, a legacy of freedom and self-determination engendered by former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, that has meant that even those on low incomes can travel frequently and freely all over the world.

The notion that a system resembling capital controls and travel for the elite only would have been alien even two years ago, however here it is and today's revelation that the government is considering popular tourist destinations such as Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca to what is referred to as the 'amber list' of destinations which require adherence to expensive and restrictive rules and a hermit-like quarantine requirement which if flouted results in, yes, you guessed it, having to hand even more money over to the government.

Jet2 recently announced that it has carried just 370,000 passengers in the past twelve months, whereas in the 12 months before that it carried over 3.1 million passengers, and last week confirmed that it has made a £374 million loss in the recently ended financial year.

That is catastrophic, especially considering how difficult it is to run an airline even when things are going well.

Even IAG, which is a joint venture between British Airways and Iberia, both long and short distance flag carriers, is down today by 3.82 points, when it had been making upward headway recently because these airlines are now the airlines of choice for people escaping lockdowns to the United States, Asia or Russia, and are also where the custom will go, given that flying is now for the wealthy only.

Despite their worldwide coverage, the news was enough to affect their share price too, albeit not as much as the budget carriers.

There is a huge public backlash against these continual attempts to curtail the free movement of people and it is being seen increasingly as an infringement on liberties, but there will ultimately only be a small percentage of dissenters who will actually go ahead with the expense and bureaucracy required to fulfil the requirements to travel.

Many are simply, for the first time in Western history, too afraid of the authorities, or of losing their money by being sent home from the airport, to travel.

The decimation is quite severe, therefore airline stock is volatile, but on the downward trajectory unfortunately.

What would Mrs Thatcher say if she could see this?

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