$10 Airfare Increase Kept Mostly in Place

The most recent increase in airfares appears to have stuck, at least in part, with airlines raising round-trip ticket prices by $10 in many markets.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines is among the carriers that have raised prices in recent days. The increases largely stem from high fuel prices, as crude oil has neared the $60-per-barrel mark.

Although prices went up, most routes remained capped at $499 each way, said Terry Trippler of Cheapseats.com, an Internet travel firm that monitors airfares. That maximum price was instituted by Delta Air Lines this year, and most airlines have followed suit.

"It's safe to assume Delta was serious about that cap," Trippler said. By late Thursday afternoon, most major hub airlines had matched the fare increase either entirely or in markets where they don't compete with discount airlines, such as Dallas-based Southwest Airlines.

The discounters, which include JetBlue Airways and AirTran Airways, had not raised fares.

The industry's three previous attempts to raise fares have failed in recent weeks. Those came after six successful increases in March and April that saw round-trip prices jump a total of $60.

According to the Air Transport Association, an industry trade group, average airfares rose slightly during May -- the first increase in average fares in nine months.

The airlines are desperate to boost their revenues through price increases to offset fuel rising costs.

"This small fare increase is a way to recover some of that extreme increase in fuel expense," said Tim Wagner, an American spokesman. He pointed out that American's price increase does not apply to sale fares.

"We still have historically low airfares, and travelers are still getting good deals," he said.

Discount airlines, which rarely cooperate in price increases, have made them difficult to implement nationwide. That's why most recent increases have excluded markets where major airlines compete with low-fare rivals.