“We don’t know where the price of crude is going to be,” says [Southwest Airlines’s Chris] Monroe. But, he adds, “I think we have to be generally bullish just because we’re trying to protect against an increase … So we have a little bit of a bias that prices may go higher.”
He chuckles that he and [former SW treasurer Scott] Topping, longtime colleagues and friends, used to describe themselves as the “most conflicted” managers in the building — although low fuel prices would benefit Southwest overall, it would mean their carefully crafted hedging strategy wouldn’t pay off as well….
Still, “In my heart, I would love lower prices,” says Monroe. “Lower prices are good for everybody in our country, and especially good for an airline.”
From, “The ‘Fixer’ at Southwest Airlines,” CNBC.
Notice that Southwest trades crude oil options and other derivatives even though they are not in the physical crude oil market. Proposals that aim to limit trading to parties with “true” commercial interests in the underlying commodity could inadvertently trip up quite reasonable hedging strategies such as pursued by Southwest. (Presumably they find the liquidity available in the much more heavily traded crude oil markets attractive compared to trading in the less liquid jet fuel markets even though the crude oil price is an inexact proxy for the price of jet fuel.)
In related news, Delta Air Lines is buying a refineryfrom the Phillips 66 unit being spun off of ConocoPhillips. According to Dana Blankenhorn at SeekingAlpha, “Delta Refinery Deal All About Southwest.”
(I’m still with the skeptics on this deal. Is is really going to be cheaper for Delta to own a refinery and make jet fuel than just buy jet fuel in a reasonably competitive market? Another way of asking the question, why does Delta think it can do a better job of running the refinery than ConocoPhillips did? Surely contract-based cost management as practiced by Southwest will be more flexible and adaptable to changing conditions than Delta’s ownership of an aging refinery near Philadelphia.)