Major Airlines Offer Fall Fare Sales

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Several major airlines are offering fare sales on select leisure routes heading into the traditionally slow early fall season, a welcome relief for passengers weary of higher ticket prices of late.

Even so, the discounts were expected this time of year and prices have actually continued to rise on shorter-term business fares, said Ray Neidl, an airline analyst with Calyon Securities in New York.

"Does night follow day?" Neidl said. "You have to be basically ignoring this industry if you weren't expecting fare sales in mid-August. I think the interesting thing is it's less than it was last year and it's totally restricted to advanced-purchase leisure fares."

Neidl said overall demand for air travel remains strong. He said there is an annual slowdown between September and mid-November, and that air travel usually picks up around the holidays.

"It would be better if they could sell every ticket for a full fare, but that's not going to happen in the shoulder season," Neidl said, referring to the Labor Day to Thanksgiving period.

Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, the nation's No. 2 carrier, is offering discounted fares between certain U.S. cities for tickets purchased by Aug. 18 and used for travel between Aug. 22 and Nov. 16. A one-way fare from Chicago to Boston, for instance, is $79. United also is offering discounts on certain international routes. Advance purchases are required.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc., the nation's No. 3 carrier, is offering one-way fares from $49 to $129 between Atlanta and select U.S. cities for tickets purchased by Wednesday and used between Aug. 15 and Nov. 16. The fares are not available for travel on Fridays and Sundays.

Fort Worth, Texas-based AMR Corp., parent of No. 1 U.S. carrier American Airlines, and Phoenix-based US Airways also are offering fare sales on select domestic leisure routes for travel this weekend or next weekend, depending on the carrier.

The expected sales come amid an uptick in air fares at many carriers over the last several months.

The result has been profits for some of them — despite persistently high fuel prices — that should continue because of strong demand for air travel.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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