The news this morning is that it made $233 million in the recent quarter. Quite a turn around considering that it had lost just about that much this time last year.

Continentals not the only one enjoying profits, as NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

WENDY KAUFMAN: Fact number one, travelers are now paying about 20 percent more for airplane tickets than they would've paid a year ago. Fact number two, the number of passengers, especially business passengers who often pay higher fares, is increasing.

Dave Castelveter is with the Air Transport Association, an industry trade group.

Mr. DAVE CASTELVETER (Spokesman, Air Transport Association): We're seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. You know, we have been faced with challenges like none other.

KAUFMAN: The industry was clobbered after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Then the global economy soured and people stopped traveling. Fuel prices climbed to record levels. The airlines had to cut costs. They reduced the number of flights and slashed payrolls. They began adding fees for things like food and luggage. Some airlines, like Delta and Northwest, even merged.

Now, says industry analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group, the airlines are in the driver's seat.

Mr. RICHARD ABOULAFIA (Analyst, Teal Group): The one thing you want is when numbers come roaring back, as they are now, is that seats are at a premium because you've cut so many of them. And therefore, you have more pricing power and your profits go up.

KAUFMAN: This week Delta Airlines reported its largest quarterly profit in more than a decade. United and US Airways posted their first profits since 2007.

Some airlines are now beginning to order new planes and rehire workers. But, Aboulafia says airlines will be very careful not to add too many new flights too quickly.

Mr. ABOULAFIA: They're going to be pretty reluctant to add a whole lot of capacity. That means that things are only going to get a little tighter for the consumer, a little more expensive.

KAUFMAN: So they may have to book early and shop more carefully.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.

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