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JetBlue rallies after an analyst upgrade, but some experts prefer this airline stock

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JetBlue's soaring off an analyst upgrade, but experts prefer this airline stock

Airline stocks have hit some turbulence.

The NYSE Arca Airline Index, which tracks the group, has fallen 13% this month, weighed down by double-digit losses in shares of American Airlines, down 17% and JetBlue, off 13%.

But after a bullish call on JetBlue from Deutsche Bank analysts, who flagged an "attractive entry point" emerging in shares of the travel play on Wednesday, the group turned, with JetBlue rallying over 1%.

Still, some are skeptical that this marks the start of a sustained recovery for the airlines.

"Overall, we're going to stay on the runway on this one," Ari Wald, head of technical analysis at Oppenheimer, told CNBC's "Trading Nation" on Wednesday. "Just not a lot of conviction here to own them. They rank low in our momentum work. But I will say, tactically, they are oversold, so I don't think now is the time to bet against them, either."

The group could still be "due for ... some near-term relief," said Wald, flagging Air Canada's stock as his favorite overseas investment and Delta Airlines as his domestic pick.

"One of the better charts in this mixed-to-weak group would be Delta," he said.

"It's one of the few still above its 200-day moving average," Wald said. "This is the one I'd say we wouldn't bet against, at least. While we're not recommending to buy it here, I think if you do own Delta, keep an eye on that 200-day moving average right around $54 and change. If it starts to break below there, I think you have trouble, but more positive than not above that line."

Mark Tepper, president and CEO of Strategic Wealth Partners, also liked Delta's positioning vis-a-vis the struggling sector.

"Transports in general have been on the struggle bus this year," he said in the same "Trading Nation" interview. "But within transports, we would prefer airlines over trucking and rail, and that's mainly because the consumer is still so strong."

With consumer confidence still high, wages on the rise and household net worth near all-time highs, consumers are still feeling financially comfortable, which benefits air travel stocks, Tepper said. Delta, he added, is best-positioned to reap those benefits.

"We own Delta, and that's definitely our favorite name here," he said. "They've got zero 737 Max exposure, so what that does is it gives Delta the ability to grow their capacity while their competitors are in time-out right now. They've got this partnership with [American Express], which is by far the gold standard for rewards and loyalty programs amongst airlines, and it gives them high-margin business that literally costs them nothing and it makes them less cyclical."

"On top of all that, they've got the best maintenance team in the business, and that gives them the ability to extend the useful life of their aircraft and therefore boost margins as well," Tepper said. "So, I like the stock right here, right around 57 bucks. If it pulls back to $55, that would be an ideal entry point for anyone trying to build a position right now."

Delta shares closed just under the $57 level on Wednesday, having climbed nearly 1% by the end of the trading session.

Disclosure: Strategic Wealth Partners owns shares of Delta.

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