3 airlines increase fares

May 14, 2007
American, Delta, and Continental fares up $10

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines, three of the four largest U.S. carriers, boosted domestic round-trip fares by $10 to offset higher expenses including the rising price of fuel.

"We are facing continuous cost pressures," Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton said Friday. Atlanta-based Delta's increase took effect Thursday and was matched by American, the world's biggest airline, and Continental, the fourth-largest U.S. carrier.

The carriers' moves follow a failed effort by major U.S. airlines this month to raise domestic ticket prices by a similar amount, said Neil Bainton, chief operating officer of farecompare.com, a Web site that tracks airfares.

"The airlines really seem to have a hard time maintaining real pricing power," Bainton said. Domestic fares are 10 percent lower than a year ago, he said, and 13 percent lower than in 2005.

Tim Wagner, a spokesman for AMR Corp.'s American, said higher fuel spending is "the reason why we are seeking to raise fares." Each 1-cent increase in the price of a gallon of jet fuel costs Fort Worth, Texas-based American $30 million a year.

Delta, the third-largest U.S. airline by passenger traffic, has initiated two fare increases this year. Spokesmen for UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, the second-largest U.S. carrier, and Northwest Airlines Corp. said the companies were studying the latest boost.

Southwest Airlines, the largest low-fare carrier, won't match the increase, spokeswoman Beth Harbin said. Bainton said the fare boost may fail without Dallas-based Southwest's participation. Airlines typically roll back price increases if rivals don't go along.

US Airways hasn't matched Delta's fare increase, spokeswoman Morgan Durrant said.

Continental, citing fuel costs, led an effort by major airlines to raise round-trip fares by $10 on May 4. That effort collapsed after low-fare carriers Southwest, JetBlue Airways, and AirTran Holdings didn't join in the increase.

With reporting by Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas and Susanna Ray in Chicago

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