Investors continued to dump shares of Flyi Inc., parent of low-cost carrier Independence Air, yesterday as Standard & Poor's issued a negative assessment of the airline's future.
The credit-rating agency's report came a day after UBS Investment Research analyst Robert N. Ashcroft gave the Dulles-based airline a 65 percent chance of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, most likely in January.
Flyi's share price fell more than 50 percent yesterday morning before Standard & Poor's issued its report. The stock ended the day at $1.63 a share, down 80 cents, on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
Since Independence Air began service June 16, the stock price has fallen 73 percent.
Standard & Poor's yesterday put Flyi on credit watch with negative implications, meaning that the agency will closely monitor the company's financial performance in the coming weeks. The credit watch affects about $230 million of rated securities. Flyi has a B-minus rating.
Rick DeLisi, a spokesman for Flyi, said the company will discuss its financial situation next Wednesday when it releases third-quarter financial results. He declined further comment.
Flyi has said it will owe about $100 million in January on the lease of the 87 regional jets in its fleet. Flyi recently took delivery of two 132-passenger Airbus jets and plans to lease 26 more of them.
On June 30, Flyi had $345 million available to pay its bills -- "fairly substantial for an airline of its size," Standard & Poor's wrote in its report. Since then, however, "this amount has likely declined significantly," the S&P wrote, because the company's 50-seat regional jets have been flying at less than half capacity. Flyi reported this week that Independence Air sold 44 percent of its seats in September. That compares with an industry average of more than 70 percent, Standard & Poor's said.
Like other airline companies, Flyi has been "negatively affected" by high fuel costs and the "ongoing weak fare environment," Standard & Poor's wrote. Independence Air has offered fares as low as $29 from Washington Dulles International Airport to Pittsburgh.
Until this summer, Flyi was known as Atlantic Coast Airlines Holdings Inc. and operated regional jets for United Airlines and Delta Air Lines. As a regional carrier, Atlantic Coast flew the airplanes but left the marketing, reservations and customer service to United and Delta. Flyi severed its contracts with those airlines to become a stand-alone carrier.
Standard & Poor's said Flyi may be responsible for lease payments on the 30 planes it operated for financially troubled Delta if that airline files for Chapter 11 protection.