Airline stocks have finally recovered all their losses since September 11, 2001

After nearly 17 years, the airline industry has made it back to its level from just before the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center.

The NYSE Airline Index closed on September 10, 2001 at $US116.97, re-opened September 17, 2011 at $US69.85, and eventually bottomed just above $US14 in March 2009. As of the market close on Wednesday, the index was at $US118.12.

The nearly two-decade rebound comes after a confluence of factors allowed the industry to bounce back after looking like it was in serious trouble during the financial crisis.

Lower fuel costs, an increased numbers of flights while maintaining strong capacity levels, air passenger growth hitting its highest level in years, and a bounce back in inflation for ticket prices after a multi-decade decline have all contributed to strong profits for the industry.

Much of this has also come from a more shareholder-minded attitude for the industry over the time period. Capital expenditures on new planes have decreased and airlines have been stingy with increasing capacity in other ways to maintain strong margins.

Even Warren Buffett, the famed investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, invested in all of the major US airlines during the first quarter of 2017 after saying the industry was a bad pick for years.

(h/t @charliebilello)

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