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US airways are seeing a "legged" restoration, with shares rising to pre-pandemic ranges

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: American Airlines passenger planes crowd a runway at Tulsa International Airport in Tulsa where they are parked due to flight reductions to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

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By Tracy Rucinski and Sanjana Shivdas

(Reuters) – U.S. airline executives on Monday pointed to concrete signs of a recovery in domestic vacation travel as a slowing pandemic fueled spring and summer bookings, pushing stocks to their highest level since the coronavirus crisis a year ago Has.

"We are sure to see the beginning of a very sharp increase," said Doug Parker, chief executive of American Airlines (NASDAQ :), one of several CEOs who spoke at a conference hosted by J.P. Morgan spoke.

Ted Christie, CEO of Budget Carrier Spirit Airlines (NYSE 🙂 said the recovery seemed to "have legs".

Executives cited data showing U.S. COVID-19 vaccinations are accelerating, exceeding the number of declining positive cases.

By Sunday, 21% of the US population had received at least one dose of vaccine.

As a result, people are booking vacations and visits to friends and relatives, which is helping to slow the pace of expected first-quarter sales declines, even though business and international travel remain depressed.

Airline stocks began to decline dramatically on February 21, 2020 as the pandemic spread, bottomed on May 14, and has gradually climbed to the current high since then.

United Airlines expects the cash burn to end in March, said CEO Scott Kirby (NYSE :), the first major airline that said it could hit the industry milestone. In January, United announced that an average daily core cash burn of $ 19 million is expected to continue in the fourth quarter in early 2021.

The positive trend in core cash burn is expected to continue after March, provided current booking history persists, Kirby said. Core Cash Burn excludes debt and severance payments.

United shares rose 9% and the Dow Jones U.S. Airlines Index () rose by more than 4%.

Delta Air Lines (NYSE 🙂 is "cautiously optimistic" that it can stop its cash burn this spring, said CEO Ed Bastian.

Delta said it will use cash on aircraft purchases in the second quarter and expects the first-quarter revenue decline to be on the lower end of its forecast for a 60% to 65% decline from the same quarter in 2019 before the start of the quarter Pandemic.

Southwest Airlines (NYSE 🙂 estimated lower cash burn and lower operating income decline for March than previously forecast for the first quarter.

JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ 🙂 also forecast a slower revenue decline in the first quarter, forecasting a decline of between 61% and 64% compared to the same period last year. Previously, JetBlue Airways had forecast a decline in sales from 65% to 70%.

American, the most heavily indebted U.S. carrier, said it had no plans to raise further funding after a $ 10 billion debt deal last week and expected more than $ 17 billion in cash by the end of March.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, more than 1.3 million passengers were screened at US airports on Friday and Sunday. This is the highest number since the 2020 pandemic.

"I think we're close to the end of the virtual world," said United's Kirby.

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