Please forgive me my laziness today. Everything you're about to read is anecdotal...I'm too lazy to do any real research and provide you any links.
A few months ago, there was an expose' about airlines flying with less than full loads of fuel. The story was (supposedly) prompted by an uptick in pilots declaring fuel emergencies and requesting immediate landing slots. The tone of the story was that the airlines were putting you at risk to save money on fuel.
Last night, one of the networks, (I think ABC, but don't hold me to it), ran a story about how airlines are making all sorts of changes in an effort to maximize efficient fuel use. They were talking about how they're trying to stay on shore power as long as possible to reduce fuel wasted sitting at the gate. Airlines are talking about stripping off paint jobs and replacing them with a few decals...reducing weight by as much as 400 lbs. for some aircraft. A few weeks ago, we were all bitching about airlines starting to charge for luggage...but from their point of view, luggage is nothing but weight.
And most telling was the part of the story about fueling up. Once upon a time, an aircraft never left the ground without having its tanks topped off. But that's changed. If an aircraft is going on a short hop, why fill the tanks with unneeded extra weight? You'd be using fuel to transport...fuel. As you all know, I'm not much for math, but it doesn't take a genius to understand that if you're transporting X pounds of fuel and it takes Y pounds of fuel to make the trip from, say Denver to Chicago, if you lighten the fuel load, you'll actually burn less fuel making the same trip. Suddenly, the same story is about airlines trying desperately to economize...both to keep air travel affordable and to keep their companies in business.
Funny how a few months of rising fuel prices can change perceptions.