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Jet Fuel Costs Changing Way Airlines Work

Think you're feeling pain at the pump? Imagine if you drove … a jet.

Jet fuel prices are soaring - faster than gasoline. Last March, jet fuel was $1.85 a gallon. This month, it hit $3.48. That's nearly double the price in just one year, CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports.

"On top of that, it expeeds by three to four times the amount of profit this industry made in the last two years," said Jim May of the Air Transport Association.

Just a $1 increase in jet fuel can cost an airline an extra $60 million a year. Fuel is now the No. 1 expense in major airlines - more costly than employee salaries or the airplanes themselves.

It's part of the reason Delta and Northwest recently attempted - unsuccessfully - to merge.

"A larger airline will not get better fuel prices, but they will have a larger revenue base to be able to pay the higher fuel," said airline industry analyst Daryl Jenkins.

The other options: raise fares. The major airlines have done that an astounding nine times just since the start of the year.

"It's hard for me to track anymore because they're coming so fast," said's CEO Rick Seaney.

Seaney says a flight from Dallas to Raleigh that was $670 last year is now $916. Cincinnati to Detroit was $768. Now it's $948.

"You need to shop earlier in order to find a deal," Seaney said. "They're harder to find but they will be out there."

Passengers may also be faced with fewer choices as airlines look at dropping unprofitable routes and grounding older, less fuel efficient aircraft.

They've considered removing seats, even magazines, or stripping exterior paint because a lighter plane burns less fuel.

Fares are likely to keep climbing as long as people keep buying. Just yesterday Delta offered buyouts to more than half its workforce and pulled out of four markets. Other airlines have hinted that tough decisions lie ahead for them as well if fuel prices continue to climb.

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