Airline outlook: more passengers but fewer planes

MSNBC.com's article, Flights are packed- time to cut back, paints a pretty grim picture of what passengers will find when trying to book domestic flights after this summer.

Here's a quick rundown of the most important points: June airline capacity for most of the big airlines was between 85 and 90 percent. But, many airlines, including American, Continental, JetBlue, and Southwest, have recently announced a slowdown in capacity growth. That slowdown is taking the form of selling off planes, buying fewer new planes, and postponing the delivery of ordered planes.

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Justin Bachman, the author of the article, predicts this will mean higher airfares, fewer options for bumped passengers, and a more difficult time redeeming frequent flier miles. That sounds like an airlines: 3, passengers: 0 situation.

However, if there is any bright side, it's that it's pretty obvious to anyone who's flown in recent years that the ability of air traffic control and individual airports to manage traffic hasn't been in step with flight growth, and a slowdown in the increase of flights will give those infrastructures the chance to play catch up (whether or not they'll take it is another matter). And, even if slowing runway crowding doesn't improve the number of delayed flights, it at least won't contribute to more late arrivals.

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