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Media Perspectives on U.S. Airlines Amid Coronavirus Fears

Coronavirus   |   Data Science and Technology

By Jana Minn  |  March 18, 2020

Coronavirus panic has pummeled airlines in the U.S. in recent weeks. After steep declines in new bookings and reservation cancellations, airlines are slashing service across the board. According to the International Air Transport Association, the losses may be comparable to those experienced during the global financial crisis of 2008, with lost sales estimated at $113 billion.

Are prospects equally bleak for U.S. airlines? The sentiment expressed in digital media is not universally negative, suggesting not all airlines are viewed in the same fashion.

We investigate the overall intensity and sentiment of media coverage on U.S. airlines and discern a more differentiated tone.

Intensity and Sentiment of Media Coverage on U.S. Airlines

Company

Intensity

Sentiment

Mesa Air Group Inc

1.28

0.17

United Airlines Holdings Inc

1.20

(1.26)

Southwest Airlines Co

1.08

(0.38)

American Airlines Group Inc

0.74

1.02

Delta Air Lines Inc

0.45

0.33

Spirit Airlines Inc

0.34

1.81

JetBlue Airways Corp

(0.14)

(0.58)

Alaska Air Group Inc

(0.78)

(0.70)

Source: State Street Associates, MKT MediaStats (as of March 9, 2020)

The average market-cap weighted intensity of media coverage on airlines is 0.6—an elevated level, in the top decile compared to other U.S. industries. While Mesa, United, and Southwest command the spotlight among domestic airlines, United is the company discussed most negatively in the news, followed by Alaska Air and JetBlue. In comparison, the average market cap weighted sentiment for airlines is -.12—a roughly neutral level compared to other industries in the U.S.

The chart below shows cross-sectional media scores of airlines, relative to all other U.S. industries. It is evident that airlines have been front and center in media coverage, with intensity peaking in late January/early February and picking up steam again recently. While sentiment was extremely negative compared to other industries a month ago, it has recovered over the past month, oscillating around neutral levels.

Airlines relative to other US industries NEW

To shed light on other companies that have attracted media attention lately, we expand our analysis to the broad U.S. market. The table below shows the top 10 companies by intensity of coverage among roughly 3,000 U.S. companies.

Top 10 U.S. Companies by Intensity of Coverage

Company

Intensity

Sentiment

Moderna Inc

5.47

0.09

Sterling Bancorp Inc

3.72

(0.05)

Tivity Health Inc

3.57

(0.97)

Berkshire Hathaway Inc

3.54

0.08

Carnival Corp

3.47

(1.62)

Gilead Sciences Inc

3.39

(0.93)

Forty Seven Inc

3.37

1.26

JELD-WEN Holding Inc

3.29

0.10

Culp Inc

3.27

2.25

Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc

3.24

(0.00)

Source: State Street Associates, MKT MediaStats (as of March 9, 2020)

The hope for an effective coronavirus vaccine is reflected in the media’s focus on biotech company Moderna, which tops the list of companies discussed the most in digital news. Indeed, health care companies are well represented in this list, suggesting media is also keen on identifying the companies that could provide a remedy in the current pandemic.

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The material presented is for informational purposes only. The views expressed in the material are the views of the author and are subject to change based on market and other conditions and factors; moreover, they do not necessarily represent the official views of State Street Global Markets or State Street Corporation and its affiliates.

This blog post has been written by a third-party contributor and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of FactSet Research Systems Inc.

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Jana Minn

Senior Quantitative Researcher, Head of Alternative Data Research, State Street Global Markets

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