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Published: Saturday, 7/25/2009

Airlines plan cuts in service


ATLANTA - Airline passengers can expect fewer nonstop flights, less convenient travel options, and possibly higher ticket prices and fees as major carriers make big capacity cuts this fall for the second year in a row.

Earnings reports for the April-June quarter this week showed airlines are desperate to raise revenue as they head into their traditionally slow period.

Six of nine major U.S. airlines reported profits in the quarter, but sales were down for most, thanks to weak demand and lower fares. For seven U.S. airlines and their regional affiliates, the June yield - or average price a person pays to fly one mile - was almost 19 percent lower than 2008, according to the Air Transport Association. "I think you're really going to see overall less service, but you'll still have service," said Bob Jordan of Southwest Airlines Co.

U.S. domestic carriers provided 14.2 billion available seat miles a week in the fourth quarter of 2007. The figure two years later is expected to drop to 12.4 billion, rivaling numbers after Sept. 11, 2001, ATA data show.

In the United States, service will be hit in the Midwest, Florida, and Nevada. Parts of Europe and Asia will have big cuts.

But some airlines, even ones cutting overall, are adding in some places. AirTran Airways, a unit of AirTran Holdings Inc., is adding Milwaukee service. Southwest will start flying to and from Boston and Milwaukee.

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