Many holiday travelers are experiencing the tightest flights they've ever seen, but airline profits are still far from assured, according to industry analysts. Vaughn Cordle of AirlineForecasts says U.S. carriers next year will need to fill about 78% of their seats with paying passengers just to break even. Bill Swelbar of MIT's Airline Data Project says full planes are a new reality with carriers cutting capacity in an attempt to maintain profitability, as the softer global economy has meant a dip in passenger demand.

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