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Published: Wednesday, 1/12/2011

Airlines hike fares 3rd time in 1 month as fuel costs rise

DALLAS -- The major U.S. airlines are imposing the third fare increase within a month. The increase on many domestic routes ranges from $4 to $10 per roundtrip ticket, depending on the length of the flight.

Southwest Airlines, which boasts about low fares, appears to be the prime mover behind the latest price hike. After some airlines made modest increases on flights to and from cities in the Midwest last week, Southwest jumped in and raised prices across most of its routes, according to Rick Seaney, the CEO of Web site FareCompare.com.

Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said the increases will help offset higher fuel and operating costs.

Over the weekend, the Southwest increases were matched by major airlines including American, Delta, United, Continental, US Airways, and Frontier, making the price hikes likely to stick, Mr. Seaney said.

The airlines have more leverage to raise prices because they've cut flights and grounded planes in the last couple of years.

U.S. airlines lost billions in 2008 and 2009 but turned profitable last year and are expected to make more money in 2011.

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