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Major cutbacks planned for United, Spirit

There's no stopping the runaway train of bad news as it rolls its way over the airline industry. Online newspapers and the blogosphere are humming with reports that in the near future both United and Spirit Airlines will be undergoing major reductions as a way to cut costs.

According to the Chicago Tribune, "United Airlines said it will shed up to 1,000 more jobs and ground 100 of its least fuel-efficient aircraft, including Boeing 747 jumbo jets, as part of sweeping cuts intended to help the carrier conserve cash and surviving a daunting environment as a stand-alone company." In addition, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) claims that United will shut down Ted, its lackluster low-fare brand.

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Meanwhile, the Associated Press obtained letters sent by Spirit management to its staff saying it plans to close its hubs at New York (LaGuardia) and San Juan, Puerto Rico, reduce its operations in Ft. Lauderdale, and lay off or furlough up to 60 percent of its flight attendants and 45 percent of its pilots. Sean Creed, chairman of the Spirit pilots union told the AP, "It was utter shock. To say I am disappointed would be an understatement. We are devastated."

None of these developments come as a surprise to those of us who've been watching the airlines sputter and hemorrhage for months in the face of high oil prices and economic downturn. One thing that remains to be seen is whether any more carriers will go bankrupt or completely fold because their cost-cutting measures were not enough or came too late.

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