American, Delta Launches Fare Hike

FORT WORTH, Texas - Just in time for Christmas, American Airlines has boosted ticket prices by as much as $40 each way on many round-trip fares.

The Fort Worth-based airline lifted domestic fares Wednesday night between $10 and $40 each way, depending on the length of the trip. The price increase does not apply to flights where American competes with discount airlines like Dallas-based Southwest Airlines.

As of late Thursday, Delta had matched the price increase and other competitors were studying it. Analyst Jamie Baker of J.P. Morgan Securities said in a report Thursday that he expected others to match it. Typically, airlines rescind a price increase if it's not matched by all of its competitors within a few days.

If it sticks, it would be the 10th, and probably last, fare increase of 2006.

The increase totaled $10 on round-trip tickets for flights up to 500 miles; $20 on flights between 500 and 1,000 miles; $30 on flights between 1,000 and 2,000 miles; and $40 on flights longer than 2,000 miles.

Tim Wagner, an American spokesman, pointed out that the price hike does not affect fares that are on sale, including holiday sales. And he said the vast majority of people traveling over the holidays have already bought their tickets.

"Oil prices are still high," he said, noting that jet fuel prices are about 15 percent higher than they were a year ago. "And fares are still as low or lower, on average, than they were in 2000 and before."

Shares of AMR Corp., parent of American, closed at $30.63 per share, down 42 cents, in trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange


Airfares have risen steadily in 2006

_ Broad fare increases: 10

_ Number of attempts: 16

_ Average one-way domestic fare in 2004: $195

_ Average one-way domestic fare in 2006: $220

Sources: J.P. Morgan Securities; U.S. Department of Transportation

(c) 2006, Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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