When Aviation Week & Space Technology last took the collective pulse of the U.S.' six legacy hub-and-spoke airlines in November 2002, their vital signs were weak. All of the operators were suffering from high labor and fuel costs, a recession, the lingering aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks, grinding competition from low-fare rivals and, except for one or two of the companies, weak management. Most of the conditions over which carriers have little or no control have improved or ...

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