Perhaps we're so easily fascinated with the industry because many of us periodically relinquish control of our lives to airlines and their crews. At any given time, the market seems to be juggling two or three major airline stories.

For the past few months, we've witnessed the intrigue of U.S. Airways' (NYSE:LCC) quest to buy bankrupt Delta (OTC BB: DALRQ.PK), the latter's effort to emerge from bankruptcy on its own, and the marginally interesting bankruptcy saga of Northwest (OTC BB: NWACQ.PK). But last week, an even more interesting rumor began to circulate.

BusinessWeek magazine was the first to report that investment banking firm Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and British Airways (NYSE:BAB) were teaming up to circle Texas-based AMR (NYSE:AMR), better known as American Airlines, with an acquisition in mind.

While anything is possible in this era of rampant private equity activity, a purchase of a U.S.-based airline by a foreign carrier seems highly unlikely. First, the federal government prohibits foreign entities from owning more than 25% of a U.S. carrier. There's also AMR's $18 billion in debt, which might prove daunting to any potential acquirer. Last but not least, there are the company's labor issues, including its current negotiations with its 12,000-strong pilots union. The union is seeking to recoup its share of the $1.6 billion in annual pay and benefit cuts made four years ago to save the carrier from bankruptcy. Though I still consider American somewhat attractive in an era of sliding fuel prices, I'd deem any talk of a takeover at American greatly exaggerated.

While rumors fly about American, Delta recently reported that it achieved an operating profit for 2006, the first time it's done so since 2000. It now appears that its committee of unsecured creditors supports its reorganization plan, which is likely to receive bankruptcy court approval in late April, paving the way for Delta's emergence as a stand-alone carrier. Delta weathered a pair of hostile offers from U.S. Airways before the would-be acquirer rescinded its final $9.8 billion bid on Feb. 1.

Meanwhile, JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) is licking its wounds after a midweek meltdown left passengers sitting in its airplanes for as long as 10 hours, thanks to blizzard conditions in the nation's Northeast. On Tuesday, following the long weekend, the low-cost carrier's shares opened more than 7% below their Friday close, as management attempted to define a plan to deal with future weather emergencies.

Despite labor concerns, I'd encourage Fools to give American and United Airlines (NASDAQ:UAUA) a look, at the very least. Of course, given the trading patterns of the major airlines, bear in mind that my interest in them is inversely related to the price of crude oil.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He welcomes your comments or questions. The Fool's disclosure policy is flying high.