Soaring fuel prices. Recession. Labor unrest. Heavy debt. The bad news is like a tolling bell for UAL Corp.'s Stephen M. Wolf and AMR Corp.'s Robert L. Crandall. Add it up, and the two big carriers lost more than $500 million on operations in the fourth quarter alone. There's no sign of relief. And with hundreds of new airplanes on order, Crandall and Wolf face onerous financial commitments.

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