A little more than a week after boosting fares, airlines have launched a spring sale in prices on thousands of domestic and international...

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CHICAGO — A little more than a week after boosting fares, airlines have launched a spring sale in prices on thousands of domestic and international flights.

United Airlines and US Airways both temporarily dropped prices yesterday — an action other major airlines typically follow. Northwest Airlines already has announced it will match the cuts in most markets.

Travel Web site Travelocity, which tracks fare changes, recorded more than 47,000 reductions Sunday night. The volume of price markdowns was one of the largest in recent memory, a spokeswoman said.

Less than two weeks ago, most of the nation’s airlines raised prices as much as $20 a round trip, an increase they said was prompted by skyrocketing fuel prices.

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The latest sale will offset that increase in many cases. For example, United has dropped the price of a round-trip ticket from Chicago to Los Angeles from $218 to $158. The cost of a round trip from Chicago to London will decrease from $488 to $420.

Fare sales are great news for consumers but they don’t make much sense for the industry, said Henry Harteveldt, vice president and travel specialist for Forrester Research.

“The airlines are just continuing to commit economic suicide,” Harteveldt said. “Fare cuts are the airline’s version of bulimia. Every time they take money in they stick their finger down their throats with fare cuts.”