Alaska Airlines and Flight 261 (A) Net Present Value (NPV) / MBA Resources

Introduction to Net Present Value (NPV) - What is Net Present Value (NPV) ? How it impacts financial decisions regarding project management?

NPV solution for Alaska Airlines and Flight 261 (A) case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Alaska Airlines and Flight 261 (A) case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Michael D. Watkins, Kim Slack. The Alaska Airlines and Flight 261 (A) (referred as “Alaska 261” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Strategy & Execution. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Customer service, Labor.

The net present value (NPV) of an investment proposal is the present value of the proposal’s net cash flows less the proposal’s initial cash outflow. If a project’s NPV is greater than or equal to zero, the project should be accepted.

NPV = Present Value of Future Cash Flows LESS Project’s Initial Investment

Case Description of Alaska Airlines and Flight 261 (A) Case Study

Weeks after the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261, 64 mechanics claim that they have been "pressured, threatened, and intimidated" into taking shortcuts. After briefly describing Alaska Airlines' history and CEO John Kelly, the case details how the airline responded to the crash and the resulting investigations. Also describes labor relations between management and its largest unions. At the end of the case CEO Kelly prepares for a news conference to respond to the mechanics allegations. Teaching purpose: To address crisis management, corporate diplomacy, labor relations, public relations, and transportation safety.

Case Authors : Michael D. Watkins, Kim Slack

Topic : Strategy & Execution

Related Areas : Customer service, Labor

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Alaska Airlines and Flight 261 (A) Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10012911) -10012911 - -
Year 1 3444577 -6568334 3444577 0.9434 3249601
Year 2 3955118 -2613216 7399695 0.89 3520041
Year 3 3939119 1325903 11338814 0.8396 3307360
Year 4 3225438 4551341 14564252 0.7921 2554849
TOTAL 14564252 12631851

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2618940

In isolation the NPV number doesn't mean much but put in right context then it is one of the best method to evaluate project returns. In this article we will cover -

Different methods of capital budgeting

What is NPV & Formula of NPV,
How it is calculated,
How to use NPV number for project evaluation, and
Scenario Planning given risks and management priorities.

Capital Budgeting Approaches

Methods of Capital Budgeting

There are four types of capital budgeting techniques that are widely used in the corporate world –

1. Net Present Value
2. Payback Period
3. Internal Rate of Return
4. Profitability Index

Apart from the Payback period method which is an additive method, rest of the methods are based on Discounted Cash Flow technique. Even though cash flow can be calculated based on the nature of the project, for the simplicity of the article we are assuming that all the expected cash flows are realized at the end of the year.

Discounted Cash Flow approaches provide a more objective basis for evaluating and selecting investment projects. They take into consideration both –

1. Magnitude of both incoming and outgoing cash flows – Projects can be capital intensive, time intensive, or both. Alaska 261 shareholders have preference for diversified projects investment rather than prospective high income from a single capital intensive project.
2. Timing of the expected cash flows – stockholders of Alaska 261 have higher preference for cash returns over 4-5 years rather than 10-15 years given the nature of the volatility in the industry.

Formula and Steps to Calculate Net Present Value (NPV) of Alaska Airlines and Flight 261 (A)

NPV = Net Cash In Flowt1 / (1+r)t1 + Net Cash In Flowt2 / (1+r)t2 + … Net Cash In Flowtn / (1+r)tn
Less Net Cash Out Flowt0 / (1+r)t0

Where t = time period, in this case year 1, year 2 and so on.
r = discount rate or return that could be earned using other safe proposition such as fixed deposit or treasury bond rate. Net Cash In Flow – What the firm will get each year.
Net Cash Out Flow – What the firm needs to invest initially in the project.

Step 1 – Understand the nature of the project and calculate cash flow for each year.
Step 2 – Discount those cash flow based on the discount rate.
Step 3 – Add all the discounted cash flow.
Step 4 – Selection of the project

Why Strategy & Execution Managers need to know Financial Tools such as Net Present Value (NPV)?

In our daily workplace we often come across people and colleagues who are just focused on their core competency and targets they have to deliver. For example marketing managers at Alaska 261 often design programs whose objective is to drive brand awareness and customer reach. But how that 30 point increase in brand awareness or 10 point increase in customer touch points will result into shareholders’ value is not specified.

To overcome such scenarios managers at Alaska 261 needs to not only know the financial aspect of project management but also needs to have tools to integrate them into part of the project development and monitoring plan.

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 15%

After working through various assumptions we reached a conclusion that risk is far higher than 6%. In a reasonably stable industry with weak competition - 15% discount rate can be a good benchmark.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 15 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10012911) -10012911 - -
Year 1 3444577 -6568334 3444577 0.8696 2995284
Year 2 3955118 -2613216 7399695 0.7561 2990637
Year 3 3939119 1325903 11338814 0.6575 2590035
Year 4 3225438 4551341 14564252 0.5718 1844155
TOTAL 10420111

The Net NPV after 4 years is 407200

(10420111 - 10012911 )

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 20%

If the risk component is high in the industry then we should go for a higher hurdle rate / discount rate of 20%.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 20 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10012911) -10012911 - -
Year 1 3444577 -6568334 3444577 0.8333 2870481
Year 2 3955118 -2613216 7399695 0.6944 2746610
Year 3 3939119 1325903 11338814 0.5787 2279583
Year 4 3225438 4551341 14564252 0.4823 1555477
TOTAL 9452151

The Net NPV after 4 years is -560760

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9452151 - 10012911 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Alaska 261 to discount cash flow at lower discount rates such as 15%.

Acceptance Criteria of a Project based on NPV

Simplest Approach – If the investment project of Alaska 261 has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Alaska 261 can ACCEPT the project, otherwise they can reject the project. This means that project will deliver higher returns over the period of time than any alternate investment strategy.

In theory if the required rate of return or discount rate is chosen correctly by finance managers at Alaska 261, then the stock price of the Alaska 261 should change by same amount of the NPV. In real world we know that share price also reflects various other factors that can be related to both macro and micro environment.

In the same vein – accepting the project with zero NPV should result in stagnant share price. Finance managers use discount rates as a measure of risk components in the project execution process.

Sensitivity Analysis

Project selection is often a far more complex decision than just choosing it based on the NPV number. Finance managers at Alaska 261 should conduct a sensitivity analysis to better understand not only the inherent risk of the projects but also how those risks can be either factored in or mitigated during the project execution. Sensitivity analysis helps in –

What are the uncertainties surrounding the project Initial Cash Outlay (ICO’s). ICO’s often have several different components such as land, machinery, building, and other equipment.

What will be a multi year spillover effect of various taxation regulations.

What are the key aspects of the projects that need to be monitored, refined, and retuned for continuous delivery of projected cash flows.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

What can impact the cash flow of the project.

Some of the assumptions while using the Discounted Cash Flow Methods –

Projects are assumed to be Mutually Exclusive – This is seldom the came in modern day giant organizations where projects are often inter-related and rejecting a project solely based on NPV can result in sunk cost from a related project.

Independent projects have independent cash flows – As explained in the marketing project – though the project may look independent but in reality it is not as the brand awareness project can be closely associated with the spending on sales promotions and product specific advertising.

Negotiation Strategy of Alaska Airlines and Flight 261 (A)

References & Further Readings

Michael D. Watkins, Kim Slack (2018), "Alaska Airlines and Flight 261 (A) Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.

IReader Tech SWOT Analysis / TOWS Matrix

Services , Printing & Publishing

NanJing Pharm SWOT Analysis / TOWS Matrix

Healthcare , Biotechnology & Drugs

GAIL Ltd SWOT Analysis / TOWS Matrix

Utilities , Natural Gas Utilities

Grindwell Norton Ltd SWOT Analysis / TOWS Matrix

Capital Goods , Constr. - Supplies & Fixtures

Pininfarina SWOT Analysis / TOWS Matrix

Consumer Cyclical , Auto & Truck Manufacturers

China Medicine SWOT Analysis / TOWS Matrix

Healthcare , Medical Equipment & Supplies

MRP Investments SWOT Analysis / TOWS Matrix

Financial , Misc. Financial Services

UNIPAR PNB SWOT Analysis / TOWS Matrix

Basic Materials , Chemical Manufacturing

Starvest SWOT Analysis / TOWS Matrix

Financial , Misc. Financial Services