Should you buy Qantas Airways Limited shares today?

In the last six months, shareholders of Qantas Airways Limited (ASX: QAN) have seen their shares rise and fall numerous times. Following a recent fall from $4.00, its share price is back to the same level it was at six months ago.

I believe this decline makes the shares of Qantas a great investment today, ahead of domestic rivals Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd (ASX: VAH) and Regional Express Holdings Ltd (ASX: REX).

Qantas has benefitted greatly from the low oil prices we are experiencing. Although oil has rebounded in recent weeks, it is still at a much lower level to where it was a year ago. In fact, in May 2015 the price of jet fuel was almost twice as high as it is today.

In its interim results Qantas reported fuel savings of approximately $450 million, compared to the same period last year. Asides from these savings, the transformational program it is undertaking has been going very well. CEO Alan Joyce revealed the company is on course to deliver $2 billion in cost and revenue benefits by the end of fiscal 2017.

Qantas excelled in every area of its business during the first half of this fiscal year. Its Jetstar brand produced the best performance in its history, with underlying half-year profit of $262 million. This half-year performance is better than any of its previous full-year results.

Both domestic and international segments also performed strongly. Just under 18 months ago Qantas reported an almost $500 million loss in its international segment. But these struggles seem to have been well and truly put to bed, following a $270 million underlying half-year profit in its international segment.

Things could get even better in the next few years, especially if oil prices remain low. The rise of Chinese tourism has been rapid and looks set to continue its growth for the foreseeable future. In 2015 Chinese tourism in Australia grew by an incredible 21% year over year. This brought the total visitor numbers from China above 1 million for the first time.

If the Australian dollar remains low, then I would expect to see the strong inbound tourism trend continuing for some time. I don’t believe there is anyone better positioned to benefit from this tourism boom than Qantas, and expect it to fuel earnings growth for the next few years.

Foolish takeaway

With its shares trading at an estimated forward price-to-earnings ratio of just 5.8, it certainly is an appealing investment today. Its shares do seem to have become stuck at the level they are trading at presently, but if its strong performance continues, I don’t believe it will be long before we see them break through to new highs.

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has no position in any stocks mentioned. Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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