Empty seats on a plane
Empty seats on a plane - 

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Scott Jagow: I find this hard to believe, but the big airlines are planning to make even fewer seats available this year. That'll drive up fares to cover the cost of higher oil, and to increase profits. I didn't know there were any seats left to cut. More now from Steve Tripoli.


Steve Tripoli: Aviation analyst Michael Boyd says fewer seats doesn't mean airlines won't get you there.

Steve Boyd: What it means for consumers is, don't expect fares to drop, particularly with fuel prices going up. But they're not going to drop a lot of routes.

Some analysts say juggling already-full passenger loads with fewer seats means more delays and lost bags. Boyd doesn't agree:

Boyd: It will make no difference at all. It won't represent more hassle than we already have.

Kate Hanni at the Coalition for an Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights says Boyd's got it wrong.

Kate Hanni: Passengers are going to find it much more difficult to get a seat. They're much more likely to be bumped. They need to be much more proactive about checking in early.

So Hanni says fliers will need new tactics.

Hanni: They should get their tickets as early as possible, look for the deals. At this point, passengers really have to start advocating for themselves.

Domestic airlines had the fullest jets ever and the most late arrivals last year. Improving on that with fewer seats will be a neat trick.

I'm Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.