American Airlines is the one to watch in 2010

Could 2010 be the year for American Airlines?

Well, it’s hard not to see the light at the end of the tunnel after a decade of unusual airline severity. The market was shaken several times by terror attempts – including the attacks of 9/11 – economic pressures from the dotcom meltdown and the recent financial sector only made matters worse. Energy prices hit some peaks along the way, which, according to Joseph Lazzaro of our sister site, BloggingStocks, determines the fate of the U.S. airline sector.

But, AA in particular? The guys with the flight attendant who through a nutter over orange juice?

The stock is up 90% since June. To most travelers, this is not just irrelevant, but boring … until you think about how these matters can impact your experience on an airline. When a company is profitable, it has an easier time serving its customers. And, employees tend to relax a little bit, as profits and stock prices tend to be good signs that jobs won’t be disappearing (at least not in large amounts).Also, I use stock price as a proxy for intangibles, like brand strength, customer loyalty and other factors that are hard to quantify. At the end of the day, the price determined by investors takes all this stuff into account, giving customers and passengers a feel for how the airline is likely to treat it.

So, cast aside the recent high-profile debacles of this airline, including its recent runway faux pas in in Kingston, and think to the future. After all, everyone’s screwed up. United has its guitar-playing victim, and Northwest (and, as a result, Delta) watched a plane overshoot a destination. In a business where every player is scraping the bottom of the barrel, American may rise above, even if only slightly.