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Why Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Continental Holdings All Surged This Week

Bad news turned into good news for investors in airline stocks this week.

Last week, a certain legacy flyer -- which we won't embarrass by naming outright (but its name is the mathematical symbol for "change") -- frightened investors quite a bit when it reported a 3% decline in "consolidated passenger unit revenue (PRASM) for the month of July." This raised the worry that expansion of airlines' airplane fleets might be loosening pricing discipline, leading to competition for fliers, and eventually resulting in lower profits for everyone in the industry.

Three airlines came out early this week, however, and...