I was of the impression that most of the airlines were all bemoaning the low traffic, driving up the costs of flying because "nobody is flying anymore". If that is the case, why are they not making flight a more appealing option to draw more passengers? Cramming more passengers into an already uncomfortable situation will be the last thing to draw more customers.
Besides, are planes really over-booked per flight? Aren't most flights running at less that capacity, or don't they leave the ground if they aren't full?
Want to get a bit of better rates? Have the airlines offer a discount to "light travelers" who have a minimum of luggage or even body mass. Not trying to poke at the physically larger folks, but isn't it more expensive per pound to transport such a passenger? Can the airlines not charge by weight, and let people have more room if they're at weight capacity, but volume of the cabin is underutilized? Children should be really inexpensive to transport, as they're lighter AND take up less room.
Is the trend to simply drive people to scrap over limited seats on larger planes to drive up prices while they optimize their profits by over-packing people into such limited space?
It's bad enough that they've convinced the masses that full body searches, cramped space and intolerant travel-mates are the expected norm for anyone less than affluent enough to travel first class. Perhaps an all-seats-equal type business model might make a better travel experience. Do away with the whole first class section in a design, spread out the space and work out the price-per person based on such a level paying field and see what the profitability would look like. Consequently, have certain units set aside as "First Class Only" flights, with all seats to match. They only get used when there's enough people to utilize them, and they'd likely be smaller craft, anyway. More efficient that way...
If the FAA gets involved, would that be the "perfect reason" the airlines would use to hike the rates again, because of "lost revenue" due to the reduced seating capacity?
Bottom line: If you want to fly, be prepared for the experience! If you can't fly first class, you'd best expect a cramped flight with grumpy neighbors, poor food, and no room to use your precious laptop as boredom repellant.
Book your flight based on things like creature comforts. If the airline doesn't offer what you consider a bare minimum, DON'T Use them! Vote with your Money! If enough people did that, the airlines would Have to accommodate, or go broke in a hurry! Be willing to pay for what you want, or Not pay for a bad experience!
After all, they are providing a service. If you don't like, or are unwilling to suffer through what they offer, find another provider that offers better. If the providers slim down, you can always choose alternate methods of travel.
Ever tried a Bus over the holidays? Might not be as bad as you think...