The six largest US airlines have built up $23.8 billion in cash to cushion against future shocks and to pay down outstanding debt. This is the highest US airlines have had cash as a percentage of assets since 1959, according to RBC Capital Markets. However, the airlines total balance sheet debt amounts to $50.2 billion. Airlines are hoarding enough reserves to be able to continue operating through another steep downturn such as another 9/11 or a repeat of the credit crisis. Southwest is drawing on cash reserves for its purchase of AirTrain, while Delta is working to cut its debt

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