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Originally published Tuesday, November 4, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Airlines may start making profits in 2009

Baggage fees and other surcharges plus cheaper fuel may put airlines in the black next year

The Associated Press

Airlines' economic troubles will improve during the fourth quarter and the industry may even go into the black in 2009.

James May, president and chief executive for the Air Transport Association, said recent steps by U.S. airlines to cope with the high cost of jet fuel — from charging passengers for checked bags and other services that had been free to dramatic cutbacks in scheduled flights — have left carriers in an unexpectedly strong position to withstand the current economic turmoil, especially now that oil prices have dropped.

"The good news is we were prepared," May told the Air Traffic Control Association's annual conference on Monday. "The net result is I think we're going to see a reasonably positive fourth quarter this year for commercial aviation and the very real chance we'll be operating in the black" in 2009.

But airlines remained in the red in the recently completed third quarter. US Airways last month said it lost $865 million due to high fuel prices.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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