There’s no doubt 2020 was a rough 12 months for airline stocks. The NYSE Arca Global Airlines Index lost more than 31% over the course of the year as several major carriers reported record losses.

From a value investor’s perspective, this means the industry is on sale at a deep discount. Commercial aviation still has some challenging times ahead of it, but I believe the worst is behind us, meaning now may be an opportune time to get exposure.

Below are five reasons why I think airline stocks could be a buy in 2021.

1. Globally, new virus cases are starting to roll over.

Worldwide, new daily cases of infection appear to be declining, according to data from John Hopkins University. From its peak in January, the seven-day rate has slowed to its lowest level since early November. In the U.S., the number of total daily hospitalizations has also been falling pretty steadily since early January.

daily new confirmed COVID cases worldwide are rolling over in February 2021
click to enlarge

Not every country’s cases are dropping, though. Hotspots include Southern and Central Europe—particularly Portugal, Spain and Italy—and South America.

New variants of COVID-19 are also concerning and could contribute to a longer delay in the airline industry’s recovery.

The good news is that the vaccines already being distributed so far appear to work against the mutations.