United to raise ticket change fee as fuel prices soar

NEW YORK, April 20 (Reuters) - UAL Corp.'s UAUA.O United Airlines said on Sunday it was hiking the fee it charges passengers to change tickets from $100 to $150 in an effort to combat high fuel costs.

A spokeswoman for the airline said in an e-mailed statement that the company this weekend made the change to its ticketing policy.

It also added a Saturday night stay requirement on all tickets where it competes head-to-head with other legacy carriers, which she said will affect 65 percent of all the markets it serves. That will have the most impact on business travelers, who typically don’t want to spend a Saturday night in their destination.

U.S. airlines have announced a number of fare hikes, fuel surcharges and fee increases recently as they battle higher fuel prices and a weakening economy.

UAL said on April 10 it has raised fares in the United States and Canada by up to $30 round-trip. United Airlines has raised fares by $4 to $30 per round-trip depending on mileage and competition from low-cost carriers.

“In an environment where fuel prices are averaging almost $120 a barrel, we are facing a cost increase of more than $2 billion this year and that is more than twice the operating earnings we generated last year,” the spokeswoman said in the statement on Sunday. “Making these changes is another example of how we need to continue to adapt to today’s tough market realities and find new ways to generate revenue.” (Reporting by Megan Davies; Editing by Jan Paschal)