John -- I think you have put your finger on what I found most satisfying about Up in the Air. In the end, Ryan really had changed and for the better.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)I thought that was lovely.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I particularly enjoyed the delicious irony of his failed relationship with Alex having been the catalyst for his change. He had avoided serious relationships for most of his adult live because, we assume, he was afraid of getting hurt. But when he finally attempted to get seriously involved with Alex he did get hurt. But he learned and grew from it.