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American Defends Boston Flights With Discounts, Bonus Miles

Here are the relevant excerpts from an email I received yesterday from American, with the subject line "Low Fares and Triple Miles To Boston":

American Airlines is proud to offer convenient flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego* to Boston. And right now, fares to Boston are on sale, starting as low as $117 each way, based on round-trip purchase.

With this great offer, you'll be seeing triple! Choose American Airlines for travel between Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego* and Boston during this promotion and you will earn triple AAdvantage miles every time you fly. After just three round trips, you'll earn enough miles for a free trip to London!

To qualify, book your trip and fly between March 2, 2009, and May 31, 2009. Register prior to travel with promotion code BOS3X ...

* Nonstop service between Boston and San Diego begins on April 7, 2009.

Aggressive pricing and triple miles—that's a lot of marketing muscle being devoted to American's Boston flights. What's going on?

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Typically, such promotional intensity would suggest problems with either the economy or competition. In this case, it's both.

With the stock market at its lowest levels since 1997, and travel waning accordingly, the economic slump needs no discussion. Further pressuring American is the recent launch of Virgin America flights between Boston and both Los Angeles and San Francisco; JetBlue's increasing Boston presence, including the addition of Los Angeles flights in June; and Southwest's recently announced plans to start Boston service this spring.

American, in other words, is fighting to maintain its slice of a shrinking pie, even as other airlines make a grab for larger slices for themselves.

The bottom line for consumers: This is a great time to fly to or from Boston.

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