Shift in Business Airfares Helped American Airlines

Last January, Delta whacked its most expensive fares by more than half in many cases, ending Saturday night stay restrictions and lowering fees for changing tickets.


Delta's "Simplifares" worked as intended and have brought more customers to the carrier, said spokesman Anthony Black.

But Delta's timing could have been better, consultants have said, because the carrier needed every dime as fuel costs rose. Delta eventually filed for bankruptcy protection on Sept. 14.

"The Achilles heel of all of this was fuel prices," Black said.

In theory, the lower pricing ought to hurt Southwest Airlines Co. because the gap between its $299 capped one-way fare and those found on its network competitors has narrowed.

But Southwest officials say they haven't seen much effect from the new pricing.

The carrier's mix of full-fare tickets - the tickets most likely to be bought by business travelers - held steady last year even as it grew about 10 percent, officials have said.

"There would not be any reason to abandon our full fare to go to their full fare unless you're interested in losing money," said Southwest spokesman Ed Stewart.

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