U.S. legacy carriers have begun to experience a financial turnaround this year despite record-high fuel prices, but they have done so largely on the backs of their customers. (To compare the industry\u2019s 2006 performance with 2005\u2019s, see \u201cHow to Save an Airline\u201d and \u201cAnother Turbulent Year\u201d at www.cio.com\/021506.) \u201cThe airline industry is coming back,\u201d says John Kasarda, director of The Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. \u201cTheir load factors [the ratio of paid passenger seats to total seating capacity] are up considerably due to an increase in passengers and cutbacks in capacity. And that\u2019s enabled them to raise their prices.\u201d Airline fares are back to pre-9\/11 levels, rising 10.3 percent in the first quarter of 2006 from the first quarter of 2005, according to the DoT\u2019s Bureau of Transportation Statistics\u2019 \u201cAir Travel Price Index.\u201d It was the biggest year-to-year jump since the DoT launched the index in 1995. The airlines also reported their largest domestic profit margin (7.2 percent) since 2000 in the second quarter of this year, according to the bureau. Analysts expect the U.S. airline industry to return to profitability this year, with the exception of Delta and Northwest Airlines, which are still under bankruptcy protection. But even with this windfall, \u201cthe legacy airlines have failed to invest in their product,\u201d says Forrester VP of Travel Research Henry Harteveldt. \u201cToday, you\u2019ll pay $1,000 to fly a [traditional] airline between California and Chicago,\u201d Harteveldt points out. But \u201cthe airlines haven\u2019t redecorated their planes or put in new seats since Clinton was in office. They\u2019ve taken away amenities. You have to pay $5 to get a crappy sandwich. Now that passengers aren\u2019t paying those $79 each way fares anymore, their patience will wear out.\u201dAnd, perhaps, Virgin America will step in.