updated 6/11/2008 7:35:53 PM ET 2008-06-11T23:35:53

According to Southwest Airlines, you're free to move around the country — but not after Oct. 30.

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While you can make a reservation on most other carriers for travel next spring, Southwest hasn't yet posted a schedule for the busy Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons.

Another sign of the uncertainty in the airline industry?

Not exactly.

Most U.S. airlines allow customers to book up to about 330 days in advance. American Airlines will let you book flights through next April. On the Web site of Delta Air Lines Inc., you can make reservations into May 2009.

That's important for airlines that offer international trips, which might be planned many months ahead of time.

Southwest Airlines Co., which doesn't fly outside the United States, has usually posted shorter schedules — ones that go out about six months.

"We just haven't opened up a new schedule yet that goes beyond October", said spokeswoman Beth Harbin, adding that a new schedule through Jan. 9 will be posted later this month.

Harbin said the lack of a holiday schedule "is not about pricing, it's just about the schedule we want to put out there for the holidays."

A factor that could be complicating Southwest's plans: Other carriers, including Continental Airlines Inc., AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, Delta and UAL Corp.'s United Airlines have all announced big cutbacks in flying after the peak summer travel season ends.

Those airlines are beset by record high fuel prices, and they're worried about the weakening economy undercutting demand for travel.

Low-cost airlines like Dallas-based Southwest — the only major U.S. carrier to earn a profit in the first quarter — and New York-based JetBlue Airways Corp. expect to pick up more traffic as the big network carriers cut back on flights.

JetBlue said this week it would add daily flights from several East Coast cities to Puerto Rico this fall, about the time American reduces service to the Caribbean.

And as United's and Frontier's retreat in Denver, Southwest is adding service from there to San Francisco and other cities. Southwest will soon be operating 95 daily flights in Denver, up from 13 just two years ago.

Jerrold Glass, a former US Airways executive and now an aviation consultant at FH Solutions Group in Washington, said the practice of offering reservations nearly a year into the future could trip up airlines if they commit to fares that later prove unprofitable.

"Because of everything going on with fuel and the need to recapture that through fares, they're rethinking that policy," he said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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