United Airlines said Wednesday it boosted ticket prices for the second time in a week, adding to its bet that customers will absorb an unrelenting...
NEW YORK — United Airlines said Wednesday it boosted ticket prices for the second time in a week, adding to its bet that customers will absorb an unrelenting rise in fuel costs.
The move — which came to light as oil prices topped $115 a barrel for the first time — could pressure other carriers to follow suit.
But it also runs the risk of driving customers away at a time when they are growing fed up with air travel and coping with financial stresses of their own.
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“There has to be a price point where the consumer says, ‘OK kids, we’re staying home,’ ” said Terry Trippler of tripplertravel.com.
Since the start of the year, airlines have tried to raise ticket prices 12 times across most of their route networks, according to airfare research Web site FareCompare.com. Four of those increases immediately failed to stick after competitors refused to follow, and others at least partially unraveled as carriers jostled to find the right price to lure travelers.
United, the second largest U.S. carrier, said it was technically raising its fuel surcharge, not the base fare customers typically see in ads.
Travelers on some flights, such as Chicago to Minneapolis, who were paying a surcharge of $50 round trip will now see that charge increase to $70.
United last week raised fares by $4 to $30 round-trip, citing record fuel costs. Other carriers matched that increase.
No major airlines immediately matched the airline’s latest increase across their route networks.
Meanwhile, US Airways says it will begin charging passengers extra for an aisle or window seat on some of its planes.
President Scott Kirby told employees Wednesday in a letter that the carrier needs to find ways to offset high fuel costs.
The new Choice Seats program, which begins May 7, will charge passengers $5 per flight for an aisle or window seat in the first several rows in coach.