Airline stocks plunged Wednesday as oil prices inched up and United Airlines issued worse-than-expected outlook for the third quarter.
Still, a silver lining shone among the gloom — a prediction from one analyst that the industry could produce record operating profits next year thanks to lower fuel prices, less capacity and new fees from items like checked baggage.
"Could 2009 be a record profit?" asked Jamie Baker, an airline analyst with J.P. Morgan, in a report.
Baker noted that it is "increasingly possible" that jet fuel prices may be lower next year than in 2008. Combined with a 6 percent drop in airline capacity and additional revenue from new fees, such as checked baggage charges, the industry could potentially have a strong year, he said.
"While far from assured, the potential for record 2009 profits is likely to strike many by surprise," he said. "We figured we might as well be the first to point out the math."
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