The third quarter was a mixed bag for the nine biggest U.S. airlines, with only three reporting profits. The moneymakers -- Alaska Airlines, JetBlue Airways and AirTran -- are the smallest of the major carriers, and analyst Hunter Keay says that's no coincidence. "Typically, airlines with large networks are airlines that usually capitalize on business travelers," he notes, so smaller carriers have been hurt less by the sharp downturn in business travel. Even in the absence of profits, however, there was good news for larger airlines: Revenues bounced back, liquidity stabilized and fuel costs remained far below the record levels of 2008.

Related Summaries