Airline news: Earnings return on much higher revenue

In the airline business, what the economy taketh away, management decisions made during the recession and the ever-present need to travel, giveth back. We're seeing that in heaps in the U.S. airlines' second-quarter earnings reports, which began this week and will proceed through next week.

Delta was the first major carrier to report a hefty profit, a much-needed turnaround from a year ago. United followed this morning, reporting its best quarterly profit in three years. Airline consultant Bob Herbst of www.AirlineFinancials.com, estimates that when all reports are in for the nine largest U.S. carriers, their 2Q profits will be about $1.77 billion. Yes that's billion with a B. US Airways reports Wednesday and Southwest next week.

In another development, United and Continental said their pilots reached a transition agreement for the planned merger of the two carriers.

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