Despite slumping fuel costs that are boosting profits for airlines, the nation’s largest carriers are increasing their fares $10 per round trip, the third increase of the year.
The fare hike on most U.S. routes was initiated Friday by Southwest Airlines, the nation’s largest domestic carrier, and matched soon after by Delta, United and American Airlines. As of Tuesday, the increase remained in place, according to Rick Seaney, founder of travel site Farecompare.com, which has been monitoring fare increases.
The latest hike, combined with prior increases in January and February, combined to raise airfares $22 for round trip flights. New York-based JetBlue and Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines initiated two other fare increases, both in February, but the carriers rolled the increases back when they were not matched by other carriers.
Seaney said the latest increase probably will be felt mostly by business travelers who book at the last minute and passengers to smaller cities, where competition is low. Travelers on routes where competition is strong may not see much of an increase, he added.
Representatives for the nation’s airlines have noted that, despite the hikes, air fares have remained flat or slightly down over the past year when adjusted for inflation.
But airline critics note that in addition to fares, airlines are collecting hefty revenue from passenger fees such as bag-check charges at a time when the industry’s biggest expense, fuel, has dropped by at least 40 percent over the past year.