A $4 billion loss in the fourth quarter pushed the world's airline industry to a full-year loss of roughly $8 billion in 2008, according to an international industry group. Plunging oil prices failed to help many carriers, due to hedging contracts that locked in higher-priced fuel.
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters is on a mission to overhaul how the U.S. pays for its transportation infrastructure. She favors tolls based on use rather than flat fuel taxes, and that philosophy extends from highways on the ground to flight patterns in the air. Although the airline industry disagrees with her proposals to apply surface-transportation-style fees to aviation, "I think she's shown a willingness and a capacity to understand those differences," said Jim May, president and CEO of the Air Transport Association.
Virgin America's entry into the crowded New York/Los Angeles marketplace has lowered fares on the popular route. "Virgin America has definitely driven the price point down," said Rick Seaney, president of FareCompare.com.
Northwest Airlines CEO Doug Steenland says the carrier is studying the possibility of spinning off its Worldperks frequent flier program. Separating Worldperks
"has the potential for significant value creation," Steenland said.
An unusually high volume of calls to Hawaiian Airlines' customer service lines -- not the recent launch of a new call center in the Philippines -- is responsible for 30-to-45-minute wait times, according to the carrier. Airline officials concede that ongoing training of new customer service employees may be contributing to the delays.