The airline industry's stability will also be news to the rest of the world. The International Air Transport Association says that airline profits will drop by 29 percent next year globally.
In Europe specificallyand these aren't typoscarrier profits are expected to drop from $1.4 billion to a mere $300 million. At least half a dozen European airlines, including national carriers, are on the block to be sold. Governments are increasingly "reluctant to save ailing airlines" as the financial crisis deepens. Meanwhile Europe's second-tier airlines, having been left behind by mergers and consolidations, are quickly running out of funding options.
Even in the United States the industry remains fragile, with February and March and their hundreds of millions of dollars in annual cancellation costs still to come.
So why are American airline executives giving quotes about how everything is just fine, assuming that's true and not just fodder for investors? The answer is a combination of historically low payrolls, cuts in amenities, baggage fees, and "capacity discipline." Delta, one of the two airlines cited in that SF Chronicle article for being profitable, has led the industry on fees.
In other words, U.S. airlines are staying afloat by doing exactly the things everyone criticizes them for doing. Politicians have been talking for years about cracking down on, among other things, baggage fees. The potentially industry-crushing tarmac rules nonsensedriven by folks who are not exactly above reproachis only getting worse. There are even snarky calls for renewed amenities now that profits are back.
We complain about airlines as much as anyone, but maybe squeezing them as the industry crashes around them isn't the best idea.
[Photo: Ssola / Wiki Commons]