Almost all the major airlines, except American, have managed to stay profitable during the economic downturn, thanks to all those terrible little fees for everything from checking a bag to having lunch. You know what that means: Those fees are not going anywhere. A New York Times business feature on the carriers' strong third-quarter earnings reports the unfortunate news that most of the airlines have figured out how to turn a steady profit the hard way: By trimming their operations, flying fewer routes with fuller planes, and charging for everything they can.
In 1990, tickets accounted for 88 percent of the airlines’ passenger revenue. In 2010, that share dropped to 71 percent. The new revenue accounted for most of the difference. Bag fees alone brought in revenue of more than $784 million in the first quarter — out of total revenue for the industry of $43 billion.
So what's American's problem? It missed out on the last couple of years's spate of mergers that "allowed the biggest airlines to cut service to many smaller markets, ground unprofitable flights and focus on their most profitable hubs," The Times reports.