Airlines launch widespread fare hike: analyst

CHICAGO Wed Oct 14, 2009 4:31pm EDT

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An industrywide increase of domestic air fares appears well on its way of becoming the fourth hike of 2009, a top fare analyst said on Wednesday.

The fare increase, initiated on Tuesday by AMR Corp's AMR.N American Airlines, represents a boost in round-trip ticket prices by as much as $16 for an unusually large number of U.S. city pairs, said Rick Seaney, Chief Executive of Farecompare.com.

The increase saw matches from Continental Airlines CAL.N, Southwest Airlines (LUV.N), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), UAL Corp's UAUA.O United Airlines and US Airways Group LCC.N, Seaney said in a research note.

"Most airfare hike attempts occur late in the week and either stick or fizzle over the weekend as carriers decide whether or not to match," he said. "It is unusual to see an airfare hike early in the week, which is typically reserved for discounting and sales."

U.S. airlines this year have struggled with falling demand as businesses cut back on travel during the economic recession. Carriers lately have reported an uptick in demand that makes it easier to boost fares.

The most recent hike comes on the heels of a $10 each-way surcharge implemented by some carriers for travel during busy holidays.

The Amex airline index .XAL rose 4.03 percent Wednesday.

(Reporting by Kyle Peterson; Editing Bernard Orr)