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Nation’s largest carriers raise fares

Just in time for the peak holiday travel season, Delta Air Lines has increased fares by $4 to $10 roundtrip across most domestic routes.

Several airlines had matched the increase as of 1 p.m. ET, though it was no guarantee that the hike would stick.

Regardless, this marks the 12th time this year that airlines have tried to raise fares. But they have not been as successful as they have been in the past.

Only three fare hikes have stuck this year, two of them initiated by Delta.

“Domestic airlines have had little success raising base airfares in 2013 as consolidation and the transition to 90% load factors continue,” says Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com, which tracks fares.

The last time an airline was able to raise fares in December was 2010 when oil prices were in the low $90s, Seaney says.

Last year, there were 15 attempts to raise fares, and seven were successful.

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In 2011, there were 22 attempts, and nine stuck.

So far, American — including merger partner US Airways — and United had matched on many routes, according to spokespeople for the companies. Alaska Airlines had matched on routes on which it codeshares with Delta, according to FareCompare.com.

Typically, air fare increases don’t succeed unless low-cost carriers such as Southwest Airlines participate.

Seaney says there has been “no activity as yet from Southwest or JetBlue” on matching the increase.

“Historically US Airways has not scuttled many hikes so I don’t believe the newly minted American will change this dynamic much,” Seaney says in a note about the latest fare hike. “It will be interesting to see how much leverage Southwest Airlines potential lack of participation has in scuttling domestic hikes given the culmination of four years of consolidation.”

In particular, Seaney says he wonders whether the big airlines American, Delta and United will “tiptoe around Southwest” or if they’ll “be forced to rollback or completely disregard” the attempt.

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