The good times didn't last long. Following the comeback of 2007--a year in which the US's 10 largest airlines all were in the black after years of bankruptcies and red ink--2008 proved to be among the most humbling ever for the world's largest air transport market. Carriers were hit hard by soaring fuel costs in the first half, and then hit hard again when oil prices plummeted in the second half of the year to well below airlines' hedging positions. Heavy noncash goodwill impairment ...

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