United Airlines, the second-largest U.S. carrier, raised nearly all its domestic airfares by 3 to 5 percent Thursday as it struggles to...
NEW YORK — United Airlines, the second-largest U.S. carrier, raised nearly all its domestic airfares by 3 to 5 percent Thursday as it struggles to cope with soaring fuel costs.
The widespread increase is the third in a row initiated by United in just over two weeks, and will likely entice other carriers to follow suit. The Chicago-based carrier’s last two attempts were quickly matched by competitors and remain in place in many markets.
United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said the increase, which applies everywhere in the U.S. except to and from Hawaii, is “part of our effort to pass on increases in our commodity costs that will help offset the significant and rapid rise in fuel.”
The move comes just two days after Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Richard Anderson said domestic carriers need to raise tickets 15 to 20 percent just to break even at existing fuel prices. United, Delta and other major carriers reported billions of dollars in combined quarterly losses in recent days.
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Airline-operating costs have surged as the price of jet fuel, like gasoline, has skyrocketed along with the price of oil.
United’s 3 percent fare increase affects routes where it competes head-to-head against low-cost carriers such as Southwest Airlines, while the 5 percent increase applies to routes where there is no competition from budget carriers.
The new prices will raise round-trip fares by as little as $2 on the cheapest routes, but could add as much as $90 on some flights, Urbanski said.
Rick Seaney, chief executive of the airline ticket research site FareCompare.com, said he expects other carriers will match the increase before the weekend.
No other carrier immediately announced it was following suit. American Airlines, the nation’s largest carrier, and Southwest said they were evaluating the move.