So what can travelers expect from the airlines in the coming months and years? There's no telling for sure. But you're not likely to find a more reliable indicator than the unemployment rate—a lagging indicator of economic improvement overall—which has been slowly improving. At 9.7 percent nationally, it remains painfully high and is expected to remain well above normal levels for the foreseeable future. By that measure, travel relief will be a long time in coming.
What to do - Keep your expectations aligned with the airlines' anticipated behavior—low, in other words—and purchase and consume travel accordingly.
And, because travelers need all the mood-improvers they can get, take consolation in the fact that in inflation-adjusted dollars, airline tickets today are extremely cheap. Until you factor in the fees, that is.
Tim Winship is Editor at Large for SmarterTravel , as well as the editor and publisher of FrequentFlier.com, and a frequently quoted expert on frequent flierprograms. SmarterTravel provides expert, unbiased information on timely travel deals, the best value destinations, and money-saving travel tips.