A survey of second-quarter earnings reports shows most major airlines believe the market for air travel has finally hit bottom, though few expect a quick rebound for the beleaguered industry. "We don't know how long we'll bounce along the bottom, and what the rate of climb will be," Continental Airlines COO Jeff Smisek said last week, reflecting the consensus view. Still, the summer travel season has been stronger than expected, and several executives said bookings remain solid through August, leading some analysts to believe a turnaround could be in the works. Despite the "substantial uncertainty" airlines face, "we still suspect that many underestimate the potential for recovery and the magnitude of positive impact it could have from an earnings and liquidity standpoint," writes an analyst with Barclays Capital.
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