This Washington Post story suggests that the airline industry is not being led by dumb people who just don’t get it.

No, the darling of the industry, the best and the brightest, the folks heading the industry vanguard, aren’t stupid. They get it.

They just don’t care. They believe that personal wealth will protect them and their children and grandchildren.

They plan for growth, even as the planes carry fewer people, which means they plan to keep increasing both their overall greenhouse gas emissions and the per-mile traveled emissions, as well as to have more planes emitting more water vapor into the atmosphere where is serves as powerful heat trapping barrier.

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But you’re not supposed to think ill of them, because they earn money for helping destroy the climate.

At least the damage inflicted by cigarette companies is felt mainly by the smokers and the people close by — these guys are helping push a rock over a cliff onto millions of people who can’t even afford an in-flight magazine, much less a flight.

While other airlines are reducing domestic seats in response to softening demand, the quirky low-cost carrier is doing the opposite, expanding routes and flights in pursuit of a decades-long growth plan.

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Already, there are signs of trouble, some analysts say. Southwest’s stock price has been stagnant. Its operating income dipped in the first quarter. Its planes have gotten less crowded. And it has begun losing the benefit of aggressive fuel hedges, which have saved the airline billions of dollars and kept it profitable while other carriers foundered in recent years.

Since its inception, Southwest has pursued a policy of adding flights, seats and planes to gain market share, even in tough times. While other carriers were reeling from a major economic downturn and slashing their fleets, Southwest has added 120 planes since 2002, bringing the total to 494. It also increased the number of flights by 15 percent and its available seat miles, an industry measure of capacity, by 35 percent from 2002 through the end of last year, company data show.

During the first four months of this year, the carrier added 21,000 flights and 2.3 million seat miles, an 8 percent increase over the corresponding period in 2006. It plans to add 56 jets to its fleet by the end of 2008.

Boyd said expansion into those hubs and the continued growth of the airline will lead to less-full planes over time. That could hamper Southwest’s efficiency and put pressure on its profits, he said.

Already, the number of passengers on each Southwest aircraft has fallen. The jets are about 69 percent full on average this year, compared with 71 percent during the corresponding period in 2006.