Jamie N. Baker - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division
Stay on schedule here is, as any good airline event ought to. It's a pleasure to be able to turn things over to Southwest Airlines and to introduce my good friend actually, Tammy Romo, who was promoted last fall to CFO and Vice President of Finance. Having spent considerable time at Southwest in various planning capacities, also time as Treasurer. And I see that you initially joined the company in 1991, that would have been when I got my start as well. That's probably one of the reasons that you were the one of the very first people that I was more lucky to meet in the industry. So it's a particularly nice to be able to welcome you to the stage and turn the microphone over to you. Thanks.
Thank you, Jamie. It's really great to be here. Yes, Jamie and I go way back, and so it's always nice to see a friendly face. And my instructions on this clicker were to avoid this button, so it really makes me want to push it, so -- but I'll try to follow instructions. Anyway, thanks again. It's great to be here with you this morning. And before I begin, Marcy requires me to read this statement, but of course, our presentation this morning includes references to historical non-GAAP financial data, as well as forward-looking statements. Because these statements are based on Southwest's current intent, expectations and projections, they are not guarantees of future performance and a variety of factors could cause actual results to differ materially. For more information regarding forward-looking statements and reconciliations of non-GAAP to GAAP results, please refer to the Investor Relations site on southwest.com.
So now that we have all that out of the way, I thought I'd start by just updating you on the plan that we presented to you back in December. At the end of the year, we had a 7% pretax ROIC. And of course, as we went over with you in quite a bit of detail back in December, our plan is to grow that to 15% by year-end 2013.
And thus far, I'm happy to report to you that our first quarter is tracking in line with what we had laid out in our plan. We will be releasing our February traffic results later this week, and we expect low single-digits year-over-year PRASM growth in February. Both January and February, again, are in line with our expectations. Of course, we must keep a watchful eye on the broader economic conditions and are continuing to monitor demand closely for signs of weakening, resulting from the budget sequester situation and just higher consumer income taxes, of course, which we -- which could hurt consumer spending. Albeit with this juncture, bookings for March are solid and we currently expect first quarter 2013 PRASM increase in the low single digits. So at least so far, trends seem to be holding up.
Regarding fuel, energy prices, as you probably all know, have risen since the beginning of 2013 but fortunately have subsided here recently. And our current full year 2013 fuel price expectation based on the forward curve remains in line with our plan, which is in the $3.25 to $3.30 per gallon range.
Just to give you a quick update on the first quarter, our fuel price estimate is also unchanged at $3.30 per gallon. And although Brent crude prices have increased, crack spreads have decreased, so that gets us back in line with expectations.
Our unit costs, excluding fuel, profit-sharing and special items, guidance for the first quarter and full year, again, is also unchanged. We're still planning a year-over-year increase in the 5% to 6% range and an increase of approximately 1% for the full year. And finally, we also continue to aggressively manage our invested capital base.
Turning to our 2013 revenue plan. We have what we believe is a reasonable and achievable plan to grow our revenues, and our plan is to grow them by $1.1 billion in 2013 compared to 2012. Approximately $800 million of that planned growth is coming from our strategic initiatives, along with just the core business, of course. As I think you are all familiar, our strategic initiatives are the AirTran acquisition, the introduction of the 800 and our fleet modernization efforts, our revamped frequent flyer program and the replacement of our reservation system.
Our strategic initiatives also remain on track with respect to AirTran and our $400 million net synergy target. We have taken a significant step to begin connecting our Southwest and AirTran networks. And as of -- you might have noticed, as of February 23, we are now selling coach air itineraries at 39 airports for travel beginning March 10. As you might recall, we began testing in a handful of markets in January and that went really, really well. And we are now in the process of rolling it out to our combined 97 destinations, including international. The rollout is running very smoothly, and we remain on pace to fully connect the networks in April.
Early results from connecting our networks are strong, with codeshare bookings of over $1 million a day and while very early, these results are quite encouraging and provide us further confidence that our $400 million net synergy target is achievable.
I am very excited with the progress we've made and couldn't be more proud of our Southwest team for achieving of this important milestone. As you all know, we've also been very aggressively optimizing our network. We are optimizing aircraft flows in the combined networks with each schedule, and we are currently published through September, but we will be releasing our schedule through the end of October later today.
We're also very -- well, let me just go over a couple of items on our schedule. We have really a lot of exciting schedule changes ahead for 2013. We're launching service to San Juan in April and Branson, and we'll be converting 7 of the AirTran markets to Southwest Branson in March; Charlotte, Flint, Portland, Rochester in April; Wichita in June; and Grand Rapids in August. So that would leave only 11 AirTran airports to be converted through 2014. And most of those 11 destinations would be international, of course.
As -- and our frequent flyer program, again, no significant update there except to tell you that it's also going very well, and we have a solid plan in place to produce $80 million in incremental revenues.
Our fleet modernization efforts are also going well. As you all know, we introduced the 800s in March of 2012, and we'll be at 54 by the end of the year. And we now have over 300 of our -700s converted to the new 143-seat Evolve configurations, and so all is on track with that as well.
Our reservation system replacement efforts are also on track, and we expect to deliver Phase 1, which will deliver, of course, our international capabilities in 2014.
The remaining $300 million of our $1.1 billion revenue growth plan for 2013 is expected to come in 3 buckets. And number one, of course, we continue to aggressively optimize our network, and that's primarily through tighter turn and block times, and also just more seasonal variability. And we are implementing a new O&D-based revenue management system this year. And of course, we reported back to you that we had new ancillary revenues. And those are really coming from fee increases that took hold in February and we began selling our A1 through A15 premium boarding positions at the gate, and that began in January 21, that's also off to a good start. And we increased our EarlyBird fee by $2.50 each way, which was effective February 22.
And as we mentioned previously, we are introducing a no-show policy sometime in 2013.
So moving to just fuel for just a quick minute. As I've already mentioned, there's no change in our 2013 CASM ex fuel, profit sharing and special items, which is an increase of about 5% to 6% year-over-year again and 1% for the full year 2013.
Just what's driving our first quarter, so how do we get to 5% to 6% to up 1% for the year? Again, we have the investment in the Evolve retrofit that I mentioned earlier. Though -- so we have some investment items that are driving higher year-over-year percentage increase here in the first quarter. With all of our fleet modernization efforts ramping up through the year, we'll be trending to -- obviously, those unit cost pressures will ease substantially in the back half of the year.
With respect to the fleet, we still expect to maintain a roughly flat fleet count here in 2013. And our available seat miles are expected to be in line with last year for first quarter and up in the 2% range for the full year, again, primarily due to the additional seats per flight resulting from our fleet modernization efforts. Again, we've got the 800s coming in. We've got more seats with the Evolve. We are accelerating our Classic aircraft retirement, and we'll begin transitioning the 717s to Delta in August. So a lot underway in the fleet over the next couple of years.
And just a few notes on our capital efficiency. As I mentioned at the beginning, one of our goals is to really manage our invested capital base and also maintain a strong liquidity. And our cash and short-term investments were roughly $3.3 billion as of March 1. So very strong liquidity and also based on our plan, we expect very healthy cash flow, again, in 2013. Our 2013 capital spending is expected to be in the $1.2 billion range, and so far, this year in 2013, we've repurchased 9 million shares of LUV for $100 million, and that brings our program to date under the $1 billion authorization program to 82 million shares repurchased for $725 million, and that gives you an average program price per share of about $8.85.
As we continue to aggressively manage our invested capital base, we've prepaid approximately $39 million of AirTran aircraft bad debt so far this year, which will bring our planned debt payments for 2013 to $220 million. Leverage currently is still in the low 40% range and of course, we maintain our investment-grade credit rating.
We'll continue to look for opportunities to aggressively manage invested capital and of course, enhance shareholder value. So in summary, evaluating our performance thus far in the first quarter and including our outlook for March bookings and current market fuel prices, we are still on track with our 2013 plan.
And just in closing, our employees really continue to do a superb job on the operations side, which is really no small feat when you think about all of the transformation that is underway at Southwest. They deliver the friendliest and warmest customer service in the airline industry, and they just do a terrific job day in and day out. And we're also -- our brand ratings are as strong as ever, and we were, once again, named in FORTUNE's list of the World's Most Admired Companies. We actually ranked #7. I think that was just announced here in the last week. So with all things -- with everything we have going on, just think that's a truly outstanding accomplishment.
And with that, Jamie, I'd be happy to open it up for questions.
Jamie N. Baker - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division
Tammy, could you talk a little bit more about any plans you might have to expand in international, in addition to the IT issues, the expansion in Houston and then any interest in alliances with other airlines?
Yes, I'd be happy to touch on all of that. If I forget anything, just shout out. But on the international, yes, we have a lot of work underway, as I mentioned, launching our international reservation system, but that is on track and is scheduled to come online in 2014. We are partnering with Amadeus. And so once we have that reservation system online, we can, of course, start bringing over our international flying. We have roughly -- we have over -- probably still over 30 aircraft worth of flying of international on AirTran that we need to bring over to Southwest. And so as I mentioned earlier, we still have 11 airports that we still need to convert, of which most of those are international because those will stay on AirTran metal until we enable international -- our international reservation system. So that's very exciting for Southwest. Again, as Jamie said, I started back in '91 and I was not thinking at that time about international travel, so it's really exciting for me. Definitely aging myself here, but it's really exciting to finally see us bringing international capabilities to Southwest. So -- and if you think about our route system, just where we are, we're strong geographically, of course, Texas, California. So growth opportunities in the Caribbean and Mexico, obviously, are very exciting for us. So we are looking forward -- I'm certainly looking forward to doing some travel to the Caribbean, and it's going to be very nice to do that on Southwest. So in terms of what we're focused on over the next couple of years, of course, we are focused on Houston. We've got about 150 daily flights out of Houston. And we are, of course, working with the airport to construct an international and customs facility. And that is expected to be completed in 2015. In fact, we just signed our lease with the city of -- with the airport here recently in February, a couple of weeks ago. So -- and that's a 25-year lease. So we're excited about that. So everything is going on schedule with Houston. So a lot of exciting things going on with the network and our future international travel.
Jamie N. Baker - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division
Any possible alliances, tie-ups? Is that part of the strategy or not really?
It's -- right now, we are just focused on -- over the next course of the next couple of years, just getting, of course, AirTran integrated and flying international destinations on our own metal, so that's obviously our first priority. One more thing while we're going to the next question, just a quick -- we'll have -- at Houston, it'll be a 5-gate facility and we'll have 4 of those gates.
[indiscernible] U.S. Airline Pilots Association. Just a quick question. As a low-cost carrier, no-frills so to speak with the competition, do you guys see a lot of growth now in your ancillary model?
Well, we have been -- as I mentioned, we have been looking for incremental ancillary revenue opportunities. And we do -- we have our EarlyBird product, Business Select. And as I mentioned, we are tightening flexibility around some of our most restricted fares later this year. So we -- our overall goal, of course, is to grow all-in unit revenues. So we will be looking for opportunities to grow ancillary revenues where it can, and where it makes sense for the brand.
Tammy, a question. Several years ago, Southwest had a significant interest -- well, you tried to buy Frontier Airlines. That carrier is for sale once again. I'm not going to ask you if you're interested in buying Frontier Airlines because managements never give a straight answer, and I want to save you the trouble of saying "Oh, we talk to everybody all the time." So I'll ask the question this way. With the integration of AirTran going fairly well, do you have the technology, do you have the capability, do you have a deep enough management bench that if the right transact came along, you could do anything? Or do you think you're pretty much to your limits right now, for lack of a better term?
Yes, our plate is, obviously, very full between now and 2014. Obviously, it would depend on the opportunity. And certainly, being opportunistic and picking up assets is a lot easier to think about as opposed to a more complex transaction, but I wouldn't say never. But certainly, our -- I would just acknowledge that our plates are very full. Once we have our international reservation system, which is really Phase 1 of RSR in place, that would be significant clearly. And just getting through all the work we have here in 2013, as I mentioned, just in a normal year for Southwest, implementing an O&D revenue management system would be a large project, but all that is actually going very smoothly, we're very proud of our technology department. They've certainly, with respect to our recent codeshare, all that's gone very smoothly, as I mentioned earlier. So it'll be much easier to contemplate that after we get some of these large technology projects out of the way. And so then, after we get in the international -- our international reservation system, of course, we'll be very focused on ultimately a complete reservation system replacement. And once we have that in, then thinking about -- really, it's really becomes -- we'll have all the abilities to do whatever we might want to do strategically.
Mark Streeter - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division
Tammy, Eddie and Donna Streeter, my retired parents, are heading to Florida next month or actually, yes, next month, and I bought them a ticket before Christmas on Southwest, like we've done the past several years and the lack of bag fees certainly factored into how much I wanted to spend on their Christmas present. But one thing that was very interesting is unfortunately, Rose is now sick, and so they're no longer flying into Tampa, they need to fly into Orlando. And so I had to make a change last night and I went on the website and I had originally booked them a web-only, very inexpensive fare. Went to make the change, have called Southwest, was -- forgot how everything works with you and was surprised to see that there was no change fee, and I was on one of the cheapest web fare onlys, and I know you've received a lot of pushback on baggage fees. But I'm curious about change fees. They're flying out of Hartford, they had your business, you're the only nonstop, you had us over a barrel last night when I made this change. I was willing to pay that change fee, I was shocked that you weren't charging me anything to make that change because you had me. I mean, is this something that's on the table going forward? It doesn't really impact the brand because you already had me.
Well, we are -- as I mentioned earlier, we do look for opportunities to grow ancillaries and just again, we haven't announced exactly what changes we're contemplating for later this year, but we will begin tightening, at least, some of the restrictions around the -- what we call our Wanna Get Away fares, which sounds like the fares that you booked. So we're looking at opportunities there. And so we'll have some changes. Again, stay tuned. More details to come on all of that. I'm not saying it's necessarily going to be a change fee, but we'll certainly start moving in the directions to tighten some of the restrictions on our lowest priced fares sometime in 2013.
Mark Streeter - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division
Great. And then just a follow-up question on the balance sheet and cash flow and so forth. Given what you're doing in terms of capital return to shareholders and the aircraft order book and so forth, you've been building up the encumbered asset base, paying a lot of cash for aircraft and so forth. Is that the game plan for 2013, just continue to pay cash for aircraft? Or will you look to do some sort of aircraft financing this year?
Well, we're in a great position, we don't require any financing this year. So we'll -- we're looking at managing all of that but we certainly don't need to go out and borrow anything. And we are looking for opportunities to actually pay off some of the less attractive debt, and a lot of that was actually on AirTran's books. So -- and I've already mentioned we've done some of that this year. Whether or not -- we haven't said yet if we're going to refinance any of that, but certainly, that -- we're actually more in the mode of repaying debt as opposed to refinancing, which is in addition to repurchasing stock and giving back to the shareholders in that way. So we're just really trying to balance all of that. But certainly, if -- with the plan that we've laid out, if we execute on plan, we'll have a lot of good choices there.
As someone who has followed Southwest Airlines I think essentially from the beginning, I have been struck by the fact that as you have grown and succeeded, you have become more and more like the dominant network airlines, of which you are now almost one. And I'm curious to know, and this is a way -- follows on the first of Mark's 2-part question. What do you see as differentiators that you will hold onto that would provide space -- special brand reason, to buy Southwest tickets as opposed to someone else's tickets? Clearly, you guys have been labor relations geniuses, so I'm assuming you will continue to do well in terms of customer treatment and customer contact. But that's probably not the only thing that you might need to do to keep yourself somehow differentiated. I wondered what sort of ideas do you have along those lines?
Now that's a great question and one that we certainly spend a lot of time talking about internally. But I do think, and you said it, the stories -- we have stories all the time to this effect. I do think the differentiator for Southwest, it really is our people and just their ability to really connect with our passengers. We get stories every day that are just remarkable to me. And when you think about stories like that in the airline industry, I think we do have something special with our people and our culture. And I do think, as you mentioned on -- certainly on the labor side, I think that is a real differentiator in the industry. And in terms of the brand, as I mentioned early on, too, year in and year out, we're recognized as one of the world's most admired companies, again, coming in #7 this year. So that I think there is -- there really is something special about our brand, and I think that does differentiate Southwest from the rest of the industry. And again, we are very focused on keeping our costs low and keeping that gap with the industry. And of course, that enables us to keep our fares low and that, combined, an affordable fare, friendly service in the airline industry, I think, actually is a differentiator.
But that would be truly even if you end up with change fees, with a revenue management system that looks like everyone else's, with a network or what I like to call a quasi-network that resembles not perfectly, a hub-and-spoke system and so on. It looks like the sort of what I'm going to call the objective features, as opposed to the warm and fuzzy features of the brand are not going to be terribly different from what we see among any of the airlines that have grown large enough to have to capture all the different kinds of markets that are out there.
Well, I think, too, just back on just -- if you go back to Southwest on the network, I would say -- I mean, our network, and you see that with -- is different. We still schedule -- lean very much to point-to-point network, and you're seeing that AirTran, of course, is more of a hub-and-spoke carrier. And we've actually acknowledged that our network is suboptimized because we haven't -- we're in the process of rewiring that into the Southwest network. So in terms of what differentiated us in the past to what's going to differentiate us in the future, really, we still are predominantly a point-to-point carrier, and we put frequencies in markets where our customers want to go and which makes us very attractive as a biz -- for the business person. So a lot of those attributes that we had -- or really most of those attributes that we've had in the past have carryforward to today. I think having a new reservation system doesn't really change who the Southwest is. It just gives us more capabilities to grow our network to outside of the borders of the U.S. So I still see a lot of those as differentiating factors today.
Jamie N. Baker - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division
Tammy, a question on bag fees. I believe that Southwest has its analysis, which shows that you should not be collecting bag fees. And the construct of that analysis may or may not be different from my analysis, but you believe it to be true. A question that I get frequently from investors is whether your advertising plays into that process, and whether you've simply backed yourselves into a corner with the aggressive Bags Fly Free advertising campaign. But then I started to think about products like new Coke, the McDLT, Zima. I mean, there have been some real duds out there that companies have been able to backpedal from, and they're still around. So if the financial analysis at any point ever leads you to contemplate bag fees, does the -- has it simply become too interwoven with the fabric of Southwest Airlines, or could you still make the change?
I can give you my, at least, my own views on that. I don't think our brand is Bags Fly Free, that's not who we are. As I mentioned, our brand is the affordable fares that you get with Southwest and the friendly, warm service that you get from our employees. So I don't think -- an advertising campaign is not your brand. So at least, that's my belief. And we'll continue to look at our plan and adjust as we need to meet our financial objectives. Now again, at least so far, based on our internal analysis, we certainly have not concluded that charging for bags would get us there because we have grown our market share pretty dramatically over the period of time that you're referring to. So -- but as always, we'll continue to evaluate that. But if we can continue to not charge for bags, that certainly would be a differentiator. But do I personally think that's critical to the brand? I just -- I'd kind of put that in a different category.
A question related to the -- over here.
I can't see you.
Left side. A question about the aftermarket spend. There's been a lot of discussion in the industry about whether there's been -- there's more of a cyclical or structural slowdown in the rate of aftermarket spend. And I'm curious, obviously, you've given some guidance on CASM for this year. But as you look out over the next, say, 3 to 5 years, what's the thought process around shop, as it's both frequency and scope, planned aftermarket spend, is there a more structural change in the way you've approached that? Or do you think it will continue to fluctuate with the cycle?
Actually, I think, over time, looking at unit cost, given our fleet modernization efforts, we should be able to control our unit cost over time. We, of course, we're adding the additional seats. But also, the aircraft that we're getting, it's more fuel-efficient, more easily maintainable, all of those sorts of attributes. So I think where you see our maintenance, again, a lot of the -- if you're looking at our maintenance cost spend, it is high this year. But a lot of that is driven by some of these investments that we're making in the fleet, which are unique charges for 2013. So over a longer period of time, we should see more favorable trends in our maintenance spend.
So does that imply, just to be clear, that if the industry is growing traffic, let's say, a mid-single-digit type rate, that theoretically maintenance spend could be held flat or perhaps controlled?
I would hope so. I think that, that would certainly be my goal. It's not guidance, but that would certainly be a goal.
Tammy, maybe last question for me. We have a lot of aircraft investors in the crowd, and you've -- bringing the process of updating -- around the 737-700s to the 737-800, you're bringing on a lot of those 800s. I'm just wondering if you can comment on how that's going and whether or not [indiscernible] one customer to the new plan 737 MAX. But any interest in the MAX 7? There's still a little confusion in the marketplace about whether or not that smaller aircraft really has a future in, with you as the largest customer, upgrading to the -800s. Is there really a role for the 700-size aircraft in your fleet?
Well, we're evaluating that very closely. Actually, the 700 and 800, a mix of that, certainly for where we are, at least, as far as we can kind of see here in the midterm, it works very well for Southwest. We'll be at 54 800s at the end of this year, and we certainly have, I think, quite a bit more room to add 800s. But given our -- we still have a lot of short to medium -- still predominantly short to medium-range markets. The 700 works very well with that. But as we move into international and also, just to mention Dallas Love Field and the Wright Amendment, when you think about airports like that, that are gate-constrained, having the 800 works very well out of those types of airports. But a mix works well. And to the extent Boeing is interested in launching a -700 MAX, we would certainly evaluate that.
One last question. I was wondering if you could talk about how investors should think about the value of your distribution network? And I'm specifically thinking if there's some cost advantage that is afforded to you by your brand of customers going directly to your website as opposed to buying more -- a higher proportion of the tickets through aggregate or websites? So just how we should think about that, how you think about that would be great.
Yes, clearly we made the decision to really drive customers directly to Southwest and southwest.com quite some time ago, and I do think that has worked very well for us. We do believe that it does lower our distribution cost and certainly, the rest of the industry are leaning more in the direction of Southwest because I presume they believe that, too. And just to have that direct contact with your customers, we think, is very valuable and we certainly think it has been a contributor to our low-cost advantage.
Jamie N. Baker - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division
Great. I think we're all set.
Okay. Well, thank you for having me today. Great to be here.
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