The Next Bailout? Airlines Fly Close to the Edge

But why stop with lodging? It hasn't been easy getting behinds in seats nor on barstools of many restaurants, either, but deals are doing some good. Waiter: "Care to order, sir?" You: "Yes, I'll have the dinner-and-a-movie special." Waiter: "Very good, sir."

And why stop at hotels and restaurants? Sure, Disney theme parks are hanging in there, but not even the new "Terminator: Salvation" ride could save Six Flags from filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

To be fair, though, bankruptcy can be a good thing. Why, just a few years ago, we saw a number of airlines go through the process, including Delta and United, only to emerge better and stronger.

OK, then. What about Uncle Joe's sea shell souvenir shop in St. Pete? It hasn't been doing so hot, and, well, you see what I mean. 'Tis a buttery slope, that a travel bailout must follow.

Good News for Airlines

Hey, here's an idea. Maybe the airlines don't really need that bailout (although I'm sure many wouldn't turn one down).

There are a couple of interesting things going on, outside the fact that many airlines are cutting routes. Several dozen new routes were launched worldwide in the last week alone.

Why, a week ago United Airlines put out to bid 150 new aircraft (an estimated $10 billion) they want delivered in the next two decades. Plus, Virgin America added five new flights a day from Orange County, Calif., while Allegiant Air added 13 routes. And don't forget that Southwest begins service to LaGuardia later this month, while it and JetBlue will be offering more flights in and out of Boston in September. Good signs.

For fliers, a good sign is the continuing bargains. But scoop up these deals while you can; once the airlines get their acts together, they'll disappear.

And maybe more airlines will disappear too, because of mergers. Some say the only future for U.S.-based airlines is to merge, merge, merge. I'm not so sure about that. Suppose we wind up with just two airlines. Not much of a choice, is it?

You tell me. If we do go merger crazy, which of the airlines would you vote off the island? But let's not ask the employees at British Airways. I'm pretty sure they're not in the mood for games right now.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations, including ABC News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Associated Press and Bloomberg. His Web site FareCompare.com offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deal.

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