Just in time for the holidays -- another fare increase.
United raised one-way ticket prices in all of its Florida markets by $10 on Thursday, excluding its flights that are on sale.
Delta, American and Southwest followed with similar increases on many of their Florida routes. For Southwest, the increase is affecting 16% of the low-cost carrier's markets.
US Airways attempted to bump up one-way fares by $10 on a larger swath of its domestic network, but on Monday rolled the increase back to just the Florida region.
If the broader fare increase by US Airways had been matched by other carriers, Rick Seaney of fare-tracking site FareCompare.com says, it would have been the eighth successful increase of the year.
Airlines have now tried 15 times to bump up the price of a ticket on a domestic flight. Last year, there were 22 attempts, and nine succeeded.
Separately, Southwest's matching the fare increase on many Florida routes makes it likely that regional price bump will stick. Southwest usually sets the pace when it comes to fares, since other airlines don't want to stand out by charging more than that carrier, which flies more domestic passengers than any of its peers.
Southwest's latest move was "due to the continued cost increase of doing business," Southwest spokeswoman Katie McDonald says.
Airlines have pointed to fluctuating fuel costs as a key reason for raising fares. And they have more power to do it, after winnowing the number of seats and flights available for those who want to fly.
"This is a slow period for travel, so it wouldn't be surprising to see the airlines try and sneak in one more fare hike," says Kevin Schorr, vice president of Campbell-Hill Aviation Group, an airport and airline consulting firm. "Again, they will keep hiking fares until they see a negative response in demand, and that doesn't seem to be happening yet."
Travelers flying to several popular destinations this Christmas were already paying roughly 8% more than they did in 2011, according to travel-booking site Orbitz. And New Year's fares are roughly 5% higher. Hotel rooms are also pricier in some cities, Orbitz says. The average room rate in Los Angeles, for instance, is 10% higher this Christmas than last year.
Airline analyst Bob Herbst says that it's not surprising that airlines keep trying to push up prices.
"There is enough passenger demand to fill seats at higher and higher prices," he says. "Consumers will complain, but they will still buy enough airline tickets to see full flights over the holidays."
(c) Copyright 2012 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
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