Airlines shares hit as northeast braces for Winter Storm Stella

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It’s not just flights that are being grounded on Monday.

Shares in major US airlines are also getting their wings clipped as cities up and down the mid-Atlantic and northeast coast brace for a paralyzing blizzard that could bring as much as two feet of snow to some areas.

United Continental led the decline in the sector, dropping 3.5 per cent to $69.80. It was followed by American Airlines, down 2.9 per cent at $42.63 and Southwest Airlines, which retreated 1.6 per cent to $54.99.

Delta Air Lines, the country’s largest carrier by market value, fell 1.3 per cent to $47.29.

The sell-off comes as airlines are forced to cancel thousands of flights in the northeast ahead of what is being predicted as one of the worst winter storms of the season.

While carriers are no strangers to revenues lost from flight cancellations and disruptions, unlike previous storms — such as the 2015 blizzard that forced New York City to shut down its subway system — airlines will not be able to count on cheap fuel prices to help offset the revenue shortfall.

Indeed, even before news of Winter Storm Stella, airlines have been cautioning about tougher trading conditions for this year as the rebound in oil pushed fuel prices back up.

Delta unexpectedly cut its guidance on a number of key metrics earlier this month after it said fare hikes have been unable to keep up with the pace of fuel price and wage increase.

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