HED:Northwest Airlines boost fare prices

AUTHOR: CUMMIN

HED:Northwest Airlines boost fare prices

By John Cummins

Daily Journal

Northwest Airlines this week raised a number of its fares, following an industry trend of higher prices.

Some Northwest fares jumped by as much as 8 percent, but the average increase was 3.5 percent, according to industry newsletter Air Lines.

The report said that most of Northwest’s competitors matched the fare increases. Jamie Owens, station manager for Northwest at Tupelo Regional Airport, said ticket prices usually jump slightly at the beginning of each year.

An airline will do new statistical studies of a market area, then raise its fares. Owens said the increases reflect “what the market will bear,” Owens said, although he added average fares are still reasonably low for the flying public.

Northwest’s competitor at Tupelo Regional Airport, Mesa Airlines, did not raise its fares.

Stephanie Templeton, supervisor at Mesa’s Tupelo station, said the airline’s rates have not changed since Mesa came to Tupelo in July. She said she also didn’t expect any fare increases “in the near future.”

Local travel agents said air fares have steadily risen in the past six months.

“We used to see a price war every six weeks to two months,” bringing the average prices down 30 to 40 percent, said Hazel Crabb, a travel agent with Premier Travel in Tupelo.

Crabb said, however, that she hadn’t seen a price war since the third quarter of 1997, except for announced holiday fares.

Lee Reinke, an agent with Uniglobe Tour & Travel in Oxford, said agents “have no inkling” when an airline might decide to raise or lower their prices. And many low prices, she said, are “accompanied by stupid rules, just (designed) to get a customer’s foot in the door.”

According to tracking studies by American Express’ travel agency division, typical business airfares are at their highest level since 1992. Analysts expect up to a 6 percent jump this year.