Analysts: 2006 Pivotal Year for Airlines

The U.S. airline industry is coming off an up-and-down year that saw two major carriers file for bankruptcy but others begin to pull out of a nosedive that began in 2001.

Last fall, America West bought US Airways and formed US Airways Group Inc. There has been speculation that Continental could make a move for United in the new year.

Continental's Misner said the airline would be "very happy to go it alone" but that the two carriers would make "a knock-'em-dead worldwide network."

Southwest is the strongest carrier financially but professes no interest in an acquisition. Instead, Southwest added service to Pittsburgh in 2005 and will return to Denver in January after pulling out many years ago. It is also expanding flights elsewhere and plans to add nearly 30 jets next year.

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