Fare Increases Popping Up Since Independence Shut Down

The biggest fare increases by former Independence Air competitors -- including United, Ted and US Airways -- are on same-day round-trip travel.


TAMPA -- When Independence Air went out of business Jan. 5, industry observers predicted fares would skyrocket immediately on routes that the low-cost carrier no longer flew.

They were wrong. It took a month, said Terry Trippler, who tracks air fares for CheapSeats.com.

That's usually used by business travelers to avoid paying for a hotel room and meals.

The amount of the increases has varied widely. One fare has edged up $ 30 for a round trip between Tampa and Washington, but another has jumped $ 822 between Pittsburgh and Washington. Trippler compared trips for Feb. 6 with Jan. 6, the day after Independence Air folded.

A Tampa Tribune survey of fares posted on Orbitz.com for flights on Feb. 28 found the same increases for nine of 10 routes Trippler surveyed.

"That $ 900 fare for a round trip between Washington Dulles International Airport and Pittsburgh is unsustainable," Trippler said.

Ted, United Airlines' low-cost subsidiary, has kept Washington Dulles-Tampa fares relatively low because Delta Air Lines is running a Florida sale, he said.

Cheaper fares are available for passengers willing to book overnight round-trip flights, rather than a same-day return. Those fares on the former routes Independence flew, which primarily connected Northeastern and Southeastern markets with its Washington Dulles International Airport hub, have increased $ 30 to $ 50.

"But a hotel room will cost you $ 275 in Washington, and you must add meals and the time you lose," Trippler said. "So the airlines are figuring they can raise fares on the same-day round trips for businesspeople who are willing to pay more to get back without staying over."

Passengers flying from Tampa to Washington have options with Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, the closest airport to the nation's capital, and Baltimore/Washington International Airport, just south of Baltimore.

However, Dulles is convenient to the burgeoning high-tech business area in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

Experts predicted at the beginning of the year that air fares would increase about 10 percent this year.

"I expect $ 400 fares might not go up 10 percent; maybe they will rise $ 20 this year," Trippler said. "But fares below $ 100 are going to double."

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