Northwest Launches Another Fare Increase

Several major airlines have increased fares in the past two weeks by as much as $20 each way to offset the soaring cost of jet fuel.

The second fare increase in as many weeks was initiated Thursday by Northwest Airlines Corp. and broadly matched by many of its competitors, including AMR Corp., America West Holdings Corp., Continental Airlines Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and Air Canada.

Northwest raised most fares in the United States and Canada by $5 each way for flights shorter than 1,000 miles, and by $10 each way for longer flights. The Eagan, Minn.-based carrier boosted ticket prices by the same amount two weeks ago, and its competitors followed that move, too.

Airline analyst Jamie Baker of J.P. Morgan Chase said Friday that it's ''not enough to negate $55 oil, though encouraging nonetheless given (the) industry's otherwise uninspiring track record at boosting revenue.''

Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said Friday that the fare hikes are an attempt to offset the high price of jet fuel, now averaging $1.56 a gallon the spot market in New York, compared with 97 cents a gallon a year earlier.

Ebenhoch said the fare increases do not apply to the carrier's highest-priced business and leisure fares, and that some markets where it competes with low-cost carriers were also excluded in this latest round.

Northwest shares rose 5 cents to $7.03 in afternoon trading Friday on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Shares of AMR, parent of American Airlines, rose one cent to $8.98 on the New York Stock Exchange, while Continental shares rose 11 cents to $11.76. Delta shares fell 17 cents to $4.16 in the NYSE