Shares of the country's three largest carriers plunged on Wednesday amid fears that deepening economic woes will force further cutbacks at the airlines. "People may have underestimated the breadth and depth of this worldwide recession," said analyst Hunter Keay. "Now it looks like these airlines may have some capacity rationalization to do on the international side substantially above and beyond what they've already announced." The Bloomberg U.S. Airlines Index dropped 13%, its worst one-day performance since Sept. 11, 2001.

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