I spent most of Wednesday between the computer repair shop, the Doubletree hotel where an investor day was being held by one of our recommended companies, and Bloomberg’s offices and mine, all a short walking distance from each other. It was bitter cold. But given the weather in Buffalo, I figure I got off lightly. However, I refused an invitation to bundle up again so we could be treated to dinner by our son, who is visiting. I preferred to simply cook.

A week from today is the heaviest traffic day of the year, when US families gather together to feast on turkey and give thanks. What makes it worse for us is that we will head north to New England, just as a gazillion college students hit the road to head home. So we are taking a train.

In both cases we are saving greenbacks plus going green by not using an auto, probably contrary to the trend—which is both to cite the ghastly cold weather as a sign that global warming is a myth, and to burn lots of gasoline as it has become much cheaper.

Today we consider a way to play cheap fuel prices which directly offsets one of our oil plays. It is a new buy-and-hold pick. I am proceeding with it despite objections from our Latin expert who is being superstitious.

CPA, Our New Pick

• Our new pick is a discount airline, defined as a carrier stock whose share is at a discount at barely over 10x earnings, not as one with cheap tickets. COPA Hldgs (NYSE:CPA) is hq’d in Panama and reports in the currency of that country, the US dollar. It still is waiting on the tarmac despite today handily beating the consensus analyst forecast, but failing to keep up with Q3 2013 profit and sales levels, both down by 14%. Its adjusted net earnings were $99.8 mn or $2.25/sh vs the consensus forecast of $66 mn. The big reason is a drop in sales because CPA is unable to collect $500 mn owed by Venezuela, a former destination.

Frida Ghitis worries about airline stocks running the risk of stock crashes after plane crashes, which happened with a Brazilian air stock many years ago. Brazilian crashes occur because of unsafe, badly located safe airports. CPA is an old hand at flying. It has excellent on-time performance and high passenger satisfaction rates. It currently runs 96 Boeing 737-800 planes to mainly American destinations: North, South, and Central, plus a couple of dozen feeder single aisle planes mostly made by Embraer (ERJ)  serving the internal market in Colombia. Its other major destinations are Mexico, Cuba, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. Brazilian planes, si, Brazilian airports, non.

Analysts are mixed on CPA’s outlook. IBES rates it a low-level buy (7 on 10) but Thomson-Reuters‘ analyst survey is closer to take-off, with half the experts rating CPA buy or strong buy, and the other half rating it sell or neutral.

Our logic for buying is that CPA can gain altitude from lower aviation fuel prices. Its current revenue per seat is down 10% from last year despite (or maybe because of) higher passenger numbers. The cost per seat mile rose 4.1% y/o/y to 10.4 cents, but excluding fuel it actually fell by 5.7% to 6.4 cents. The price of aviation fuel, however, is now dropping along with that of the proverbial barrel of oil. Lower fares should cut costs and also increase bookings.

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