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Southwest Airlines is trying to lure folks who think the airline's boarding and seating-selection process is tantamount to "chaos," in the word of one business traveler quoted this morning in USA Today. The Dallas-based carrier is also looking to make, oh, an extra billion in annual revenue by 2009. Hence, it's enormous advertising campaign airing during BCS bowl games, the price tag for which Southwest doesn't reveal this a.m. Says one airline economist of Southwest's changes thus far: "These are just baby steps that they've made so far. There's not much risk in them, and not much cost but, I fear, not much reward either."

In related news, Southlake-based Sabre just got a patent on a brand-new method for "predicting airline seat availability." Best I can tell from the docs available from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Sabre has figured out a way to tell folks if that reservation they've put on a 24-hour hold will be there the next day -- and if so, at what fare. Something to do with "looking up candidate itineraries in a situation table calculated from historical availability information." Reads like an SAT question, y'ask me. --Robert Wilonsky

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