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Airlines Are Making Millions, Boosting Employee Pensions

On the heels of three major passenger plane crashes in the span of eight days, the airline industry finally got some good news last week when American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines all reported record profits for the second quarter. The ebullient earnings calls stood in stark contrast to the industry's dire financial state in recent years, when all three major airlines were hobbled by bankruptcies and the growing pains of major mergers.

The news was so good that American, which merged with US Airways in December, said it would boost its pension contributions for employees, and, for the first time since 1980, start paying a quarterly dividend to its shareholders.

American and United also said they would launch $1 billion share-buyback programs, following the lead of Delta, which renewed its dividend and share buybacks programs last year.