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Airline industry soars once more

Noted investor Warren Buffett just last year described the airline industry as a "death trap" for investors.

But the industry has sprung back to life, with the nation’s biggest carriers reporting hefty — and, in some cases, record — second-quarter profits.

Perhaps most significant was the latest financial report from American Airlines, which emerged from bankruptcy last year to combine with US Airways, creating the world’s largest carrier.

The Dallas airline reported $1.5 billion in profit for the quarter — its biggest ever.

Airlines based in North America are also outperforming their foreign competitors, with an average profit margin of 4.3 percent so far this year, compared with 1.3 percent for European airlines and 2.6 percent for airlines from the Middle East, according to a study by the International Air Transport Association, a trade group for the world’s airlines.


Even the Transportation Security Administration concedes that airport screening lines can be long and frustrating. If you have a better idea for moving people through airport queues, the TSA wants to hear it.

In fact, the TSA is offering rewards totaling $15,000 for the best ideas for a queuing system.

The TSA has long relied on the age-old first-come, first-served system that uses retractable belts and barriers to direct travelers through checkpoints.

But the TSA now has several categories of travelers to screen, including premium travelers, passengers in wheelchairs, pilots and crew members, plus fliers using TSA’s PreCheck program, which offers faster screening for those who voluntarily submit background information. Putting all of these travelers in the same lines creates confusion and delays.

The TSA will award one prize of at least $5,000 for the best solution to the problem and others of at least $2,500 for the next best ideas.

The deadline is Friday, with submissions accepted at So far, more than 200 ideas have been submitted.

Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times

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