It was a harbinger of things to come when most domestic airlines could not profit even in the robust economy of mid-2004 to mid-2007. At that time, the price of oil, which dictates jet-fuel prices, held steady between $55 and $60 per barrel. Planes were fairly full, thanks to plenty of leisure travelers sharing armrests with stalwart business travelers. What's more, discount carriers such as Southwest, Frontier, Midway, AirTran, and Alaska Airlines were keeping the big carriers in check by ...

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