U.S. Airlines Follow United In Cutting Leisure Fares

After months of repeated airfare increases by U.S. airlines, UAL Corp.'s United Airlines triggered the first major ticket sale for autumn by lowering prices on hundreds of leisure fares—a move that is good news for consumers, but will test whether the industry can maintain its fledgling financial recovery. Late Monday, United slashed advance-purchase fares, typically purchased by vacation and other leisure travelers, for thousands of seats in the U.S. Yesterday other carriers, including AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines matched the price cuts, though on a limited basis. All the airlines held the line on business fares, the much more expensive tickets typically bought by corporate travelers at the last minute. Business fares generally remain about 20% higher than a year ago, with the most recent increase, by $5 to $10 each way, led by United over the past weekend.

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