(p. C1) Southwest Airlines, in danger for much of this year of losing its quirky dominance in the domestic airline industry, could soon be standing, once again, head and shoulders above the competition.
Better service? Happier and more productive workers?
Not this time. The reason for Southwest’s rapidly increasing advantage over other big airlines is much simpler: it loaded up years ago on hedges against higher fuel prices. And with oil trading above $90 a barrel, most of the rest of the airline industry is facing a huge run-up in costs, and Southwest is not.
Southwest owns long-term contracts to buy most of its fuel through 2009 for what it would cost if oil were $51 a barrel. The value of those hedges soared as oil raced above $90 a barrel, and they are now worth more than $2 billion. Those gains will mostly be realized over the next two years.
Other major airlines passed on buying all but the shortest-term insurance against high fuel prices, allowing Southwest executives a bit of schadenfreude.
For the full story, see:
JEFF BAILEY. “An Airline Shrugs at Oil Prices.” The New York Times (Thurs., November 29, 2007): C1 & C10.
‘A Southwest Airlines worker fueled a plane. Southwest’s chief said the hedges against rising fuel costs “bought us time to retool our company.”” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.