When airlines file for bankruptcy, they get protection from creditors so they don't have to pay back their debts immediately, Mitchell says. The debt gets put on hold so the airline still has money to pay employees and keep the planes.
"Travelers will not detect that much," she says. "United went bankrupt and you do not notice a difference."
So if you are a frequent flier, you can still collect your miles and redeem them, she says.
"If you have tons of miles it is great to use them," she says. "Flights are really cheap. It is like playing a hand. Do you want to hold or fold?"
She stresses that the public should still buy tickets from bankrupt airlines. The only hassles she predicts are that some domestic flights will go away along with the frequency of flights. As the companies get rid of less profitable flights, expect to see overcrowding.
Here are her tips for flyers:
- If you have a lot of miles, look into what relationships are evolving so you can protect them.
- Buy less restrictive tickets so you can make changes.
- Buy traveler's insurance.
- Remember: If some flights are cancelled, it may be harder for groups to fly together during the holidays.
The good news is that prices may decrease.
"We might see other companies buying up the routes," Mitchell says. "In order to compete, they need to keep prices low so we can continue to see really affordable airfare."
But with fuel prices getting higher, Mitchell says, more airlines could go under.