What Airline Mergers Mean for You

Airlines are making money and reorganizing. But will service get worse before it gets better?

Now that airlines are over their post-9/11 struggles, they are looking for mergers to perpetuate a welcome run of profitability. This year, airline earnings are expected to be more than double last year's, thanks to full planes, fare hikes and lower fuel prices. Speculation pairs United and Continental. AirTran is offering to buy Midwest Airlines. If all this happens, American won't go it alone.

But you probably care less about what insiders call "capacity reduction" than whether you'll have to pay more to get where you're going, whether you'll be cramped and hungry on the way, and whether your baggage will be there to meet you when you arrive. The good news is that over the long term, airlines are headed toward consistent -- if not necessarily cheaper -- pricing, with more flights from more locations to more destinations, and fewer restrictions on fares. But you may first suffer through much turbulence.

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Anne Kates Smith
Executive Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Anne Kates Smith brings Wall Street to Main Street, with decades of experience covering investments and personal finance for real people trying to navigate fast-changing markets, preserve financial security or plan for the future. She oversees the magazine's investing coverage,  authors Kiplinger’s biannual stock-market outlooks and writes the "Your Mind and Your Money" column, a take on behavioral finance and how investors can get out of their own way. Smith began her journalism career as a writer and columnist for USA Today. Prior to joining Kiplinger, she was a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report and a contributing columnist for TheStreet. Smith is a graduate of St. John's College in Annapolis, Md., the third-oldest college in America.