Despite a global recession and worries over swine flu, some airlines remained hopeful that low oil prices would lead to profits in 2009. But as oil has climbed from less than $40 a barrel in January to $71 a barrel on Thursday, those hopes may be slipping away. The sudden run-up in prices has prompted United Airlines CEO Glenn Tilton to call on Washington to end "excessive speculation in the commodity markets" and promote full transparency in the oil market.

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