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The Future of Air Travel: Fewer Flights, Higher Prices

Doug Parker, CEO of US Airways, wants everyone to know that his airline will be around for the long term.

As he told the editorial board of the Philadelphia Inquirer, "If there are other airlines whose strategies are based on US Airways going away, they'd better find a different strategy. We are going to be fine, and we are going to get through this. We can compete as well as anyone."

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Take that, naysayers!

It should be mentioned that airline executives have a history of reassuring the public of their airlines' fundamental soundness—up until the very moment they file for bankruptcy protection or shut their doors forever. So Parker's optimism must be taken in that context.

Parker also put a predictably positive spin on his airline's imposition of a raft of new and higher fees for all manner of flight and frequent flyer program-related services: "As we start adding fees, we may lose some customers. We are watching that closely. We are encouraged that most of these fares have been matched by other carriers."

More interesting—because less patently self-serving—are his thoughts on the future of the industry.

The big picture, including the all-important price of oil: "Most of us are hopeful oil prices will fall, but if that doesn't happen, the industry will continue to shrink in size, fewer flights and fewer markets—but US Airways will be here."

Parker clearly has given considerable thought to the scenarios likely to prevail in the event that fuel costs do not decline. Among his expectations, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's account: "Airlines will start collecting $650 to $700 per passenger for a ticket. Planes will fly primarily to big cities, and not a lot of small communities. There will be many fewer flights. Air travel will be a throwback to the era before deregulation. Flying will be a luxury."

Even if the price of oil were to fall, much of what Parker envisions will likely come to pass.

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