After Southwest Airlines' (NYSE:LUV) first-quarter 2007 earnings call comes out, we'll have time aplenty to dissect it. But in these few hours before we begin obsessing over Southwest's short-term progress, let's take a moment to review what investors think about it as a long-term investment. Our tool in this endeavor: Motley Fool CAPS, where we poll more than 27,000 investors for their views on well over 4,000 companies, Southwest among them. Here's what Fools have to say about the company.

Up or down?
More than 500 investors have submitted opinions on the company. The verdict: Southwest should be grounded.

Roughly six out of every seven CAPS investors think Southwest is bound for turbulence. With sentiment depressurized, Southwest's probably lucky to hang on to the two CAPS stars it's got.

Among its peer airlines, depression is par for the course:

Major Airlines group

CAPS rating (out of five)



Air France (NYSE:AKH)




Continental Airlines (NYSE:CAL)


US Airways (NYSE:LCC)




British Airways (NYSE:BAB)


Wall Street vs. Main Street
Over on Wall Street, where people are expected to know more about such things than the average bear, sentiment flies 180 degrees to the contrary. Against just two sell ratings, we see 13 analysts saying Southwest's a buy. Pretty optimistic, considering that the stock has underperformed the S&P 500 by more than 25 percentage points over the past 52 weeks.

So if Wall Street loves it, why are individual investors so down on Southwest?

Bull pitch
Southwest bulls love the company's history of earning profits in an industry that's -- well, let's just say the airline industry is not famous for making money. With more people flying than at any time prior to 2000, and a balance sheet strong enough to let it hedge against rising fuel costs, they consider Southwest a force to be reckoned with.

Bear pitch
Are those who don't learn from history truly doomed to repeat it? Pity the bears, then, who argue on CAPS that the major "legacy" airlines will bury Southwest. (Personally, though, I figure that if this hasn't happened in the past few decades that Southwest has been walloping the market, it's not likely to happen anytime soon.)

Look who's talking
To learn the identities of the wise Fools who penned these thoughts, and explore the plethora of additional financial data we've put together on the company, just click here.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked 284th out of more than 27,000 raters. The Fool has a disclosure policy.