Melius downgraded Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) stock to Sell from Hold, setting a new price target of $19.00, down from $30.00. The analysts noted that Southwest’s growth-oriented strategy in the face of challenges is proving ineffective.
Historically, Southwest’s success was attributed to its simple business model, using only Boeing 737 aircraft, its point-to-point network offering more non-stop flights in the U.S. than competitors, and its focus on customer service and productivity. While these core principles remain, the operating environment has changed significantly.
The analysts pointed out that Southwest likely saw the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to be aggressive, banking on its strong position, solid balance sheet, and historical tendency to gain market share during downturns. However, the company’s expansion into new markets like Hawaii, Chicago O’Hare, and Houston Intercontinental came at the cost of its core network’s strength.