Sunday, October 1, 2023

How much are you paying for gas? Or, more precisely, how much are you paying for gas when flying at an altitude of 32,000 feet in an aluminum tube with several hundred other people?

Airlines, like many businesses, report a wide range of metrics and KPIs in their earnings press releases. Some of those disclosures are downright fascinating, because they tell us so much about how well the companies are performing—and how well those companies are likely to perform in the future, too.

One such metric is average price per gallon of fuel for the period. In general, you would expect prices among airlines to be quite similar. After all, fuel is a commodity, so all buyers should pay a similar price for it, right?

To test that thesis, we examine the disclosures of five airlines:  Delta Air Lines (DAL), Southwest Airlines (LUV), Alaska Air Group (ALK), American Airlines Group (AAL), and United Airlines (UAL). We collected data from their earnings press releases from Q1 2020 to Q2 2023, focusing on the average price of fuel per gallon. The result is in Figure 1, below. 

As expected, we see that average prices for the fuel were generally similar for all five airlines over time. (Remember that this is the price per gallon, so every cent counts and would be significant.) With that in mind, we note a couple of interesting cases.

In Q1 2022, Southwest (the green line in Figure 1) seems to be paying much less than the others. In its filing for that period, the airline said: “While we are experiencing inflationary pressure from higher jet fuel prices, our fuel hedge is providing significant protection against rising oil prices.” The entire filing can be found in our disclosure page.

A similar case happened in Q3 2022 where again, Southwest seemed to be paying less. In that period’s filing, the airline said: “Our fuel hedging strategy continues to provide protection against persistently high jet fuel prices, and we are 61 percent hedged in fourth quarter 2022 and 50 percent hedged in full year 2023. We continue to execute well against our full year 2022 non-fuel cost guidance, despite cost headwinds due to operating at suboptimal productivity levels and significant inflationary cost pressures.” Again, the entire filing can be found in our disclosure page

Because we love our subscribers so much, you can use the spreadsheet template which we created on the airlines which we've posted publicly to DropBox.

Interested in more data about airlines, or interested in more KPIs? Calcbench has access to all the data and collects many such KPIs, across a wide range of industries. to let us know what you’re looking for and how we can help. Sign up for a free trial at or click on the chat button on our homepage to speak with us today.

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