The airlines have a lot to be thankful about these days. Though airline executives are moaning, airline workers are groaning and passengers are more vocal than ever with their complaints, it could be worse. Here are 12 things that the airlines can be thankful for in 2009. Some issues are good for both the airlines and the passengers, however, it is the passengers who are still getting the short end of the stick.

1. The price of oil and jet fuel dropped dramatically for much of 2009. Unfortunately, passenger traffic fell dramatically too.

2. Fewer passengers have meant that airlines have cut back flights and that has resulted in the lowest rate of delayed flights and complaints reported to DOT in almost two decades.

3. DOT seems to have awakened to the world of customer service. Massive fines, for the first time, have been assessed against airlines for extraordinary tarmac delays and false advertising. Airlines now have a monetary reason to treat passengers better than cargo.

4. The air traffic controllers are back on speaking terms with the FAA. This has to help out with delays and air traffic problems as we move forward. Plus, an ex-pilot leads the FAA.

5. Baggage fees are higher than ever. This year, they should register more than $2 billion.

6. Airlines are selling more food than ever before. $3 cookies and $10 salads add up to real revenue.

7. Change and cancellation fee collections are higher than ever before. Domestic changes cost up to $150 plus the change in airfare. International changes cost $250 plus any changes in airfare.

8. Partial international airline collusion has been declared legal for Delta with their SkyMiles partners and for United, Continental and US Airways with their Star Alliance partners. Now they can fix prices and schedules within their alliance legally.

9. Airlines are selling more seat upgrades than ever before. Prisoners changed to benches in the bowels of British ships had more space than today’s airline passenger by some measures. The business of selling a lower level of misery is going strong.

10. WiFi fees are on their way — a new fee and revenue stream is coming on line.

11. Load factors are higher than ever. Airlines are packing in more passengers, tighter than ever.

12. New holiday surcharges of up to $50 per flight. Customers didn’t balk at $10. Then they didn’t balk at $20. Why not go up to $50. Will they scream?

I’m sure there are more reasons for the airlines to be thankful. Can you readers add any other reasons that airlines should be thankful this Thanksgiving?

Photo: Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Praying