BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- Despite all of the uncertainties of the holiday season, one thing's guaranteed as we end 2010: Airports are going to be bustling for the next couple of weeks as millions of people travel to visit family and friends.Low airfares this year are contributing to moderate growth in holiday travel, as an estimated 2.75 million Americans clog the country's airways between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2. And the big beneficiaries in it all will be the airlines. But travel growth has long been overdue for airlines. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson is famous for suggesting that the quickest way to become a millionaire in the airline industry is to become a billionaire in something else first. It's a sentiment that shareholders have echoed of late. The airline industry has been shellacked in recent years, as record-high fuel prices and swift cutbacks in business and personal travel ate away at profits, putting nearly every legacy carrier in a precarious financial position. But now, after a number of shakeouts and consolidations, airline stocks are starting to show some legs. What better time to go after a short squeeze? Related Article: 3 Earnings Short-Squeeze Stocks A short squeeze is the buying frenzy that ensues when a heavily shorted stock starts to look attractive again to investors, causing share price to skyrocket. One of the best indicators of just how high a short-squeezed stock could go is the short interest ratio, which estimates the number of days it would take for short-sellers to cover their positions. The higher the short ratio, the higher the potential profits when the shorts get squeezed. Here's a look at a handful of airline stocks that have short squeeze potential right now. United Continental Holdings ( UAL - Get Report) has been one of the most high-profile stocks in the industry thanks to the merger this year that brought United and Continental together to form the world's operating airline. While the two companies are still far from being fully integrated, the savings is already projected to exceed $1 billion annually once United and Continental are put together under a single operating certificate. At present, the company sports a short ratio of 10.4, which suggests it would take more than two weeks for short-sellers to exit their positions at current volume levels. It's important to note, however, that the UAL of today is nothing like the company it was just a few years ago. With a substantially reduced fleet, pared-down debt load and cash-flush balance sheet, the company has made significant strides at reducing its capital requirements and improving the chances of turning a profit (which the company has done for the last two quarters).
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