Photo by Justin Sullivan, Getty Images.
United Airlines has raised air fares by $10 roundtrip on most domestic routes, marking the eighth attempt by airlines to raise fares this year.
United spokesman Charles Hobart says the fare increase applies to routes in all states but Hawaii and Alaska.
Only two of the eight attempts to raise fares have been successful so far, and each were led by Delta, according to FareCompare.com, which tracks fares.
Typically fare increases don't stick unless Southwest Airlines and other low-cost carriers get involved. As of 5 p.m., Southwest and other major carriers had not yet matched United's increase.
This is the third time that United has tried to boost their prices this year. Delta has tried five times, according to FareCompare.com.
Airlines tried to boost fares 15 times last year. They were successful seven times. They did so despite having a profitable year. But they argued that they had to raise prices because of higher operating expenses, especially for jet fuel.
This year, airlines have been more timid about trying to raise fares, says Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com. The last attempt was April 22 by Delta, and it did not stick.
Seaney says airlines were more aggressive about price increases last year because the economy was stronger. This year, however, there are economic and political issues both domestically and internationally that are making them more reluctant to push for higher fares.
Among the issues: The automatic budgets cuts caused by the sequester in Washington. Plus, oil prices have risen in the wake of the unrest in Egypt. "Certainly that has to be worrisome," Seaney says.
Only a match by Southwest and other carriers will make this latest attempt work in United's favor.
"They're probing for two things: the appetite for their competition to raise prices and the appetite of consumers to continue to fly them at higher prices," he says. "You can't hang out there above market rates for very long."
He says consumers this year are less willing to put up with higher fares.
"I think consumers are telling airlines, 'Look, I don't have that much money in my wallet. If you give me a choice between higher prices and not going, I'm not going,'" he says.
Nancy Trejos, USA TODAY
Gannett / USA Today