Airline industry sinking, testifies before congress

Lawton_The airline industry is the latest to report that its finances are in a tailspin, and on Tuesday, representatives plead for help from Washington.  The industry backed up its fears on Wednesday with figures reporting that more airlines are cutting back, and some are closing all together.

Airlines are now spending so much money on fuel that they are losing money with each flight that departs, and these costs are passed to passengers.  But, it still isn't enough to help stem the bleeding.  Newly released numbers for the airline industry's second quarter predict more turbulent times for the industry - and the sky-high price of fuel is where they place primary blame.  "We are literally seeing the industry melting down before our eyes," said Air Transport Association representative John Meenan.

Air travel industry reps sounded the alarm at a congressional hearing on Tuesday, presenting sobering facts and an urgent call to end oil speculation.  Their testimony swayed both sides of the aisle.  "The administration's got its head in the sand on speculation.  We must do something to control it," said Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK).  "I believe that our commercial aviation system is teetering, frankly, on the brink of collapse," said Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).

Eight carriers have gone out of business, two have declared bankruptcy, and an additional two are on the brink of the same.  Desperate times are producing desperate measures.  Airlines are laying off workers, cutting flights, forgoing in-flight movies, and charging an additional fee for checked baggage in order to cut costs and make a profit.  Airlines are even adding fees for the privilege of using frequent-flier miles along with allowing advertisements on their boarding passes.

Just how much of these new fees and cost cutting measures will go in making up for fuel costs remains to be seen, and some experts don't expect a change in employee numbers or lost capacity even if the price per barrel of oil drops $30.

Later this week, 7News will bring you a report on the latest cutbacks at both the Lawton-Fort Sill Airport and the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City and how it will affect frequent fliers.  However, despite the red ink, Delta is moving forward with plans to acquire Northwest Airlines in a merger that would create the world's largest air carrier.