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United, Continental raise fares by up to $50

Friday, United announced ticket price hikes of up to $50—the largest single fare increase I can recall. Increases went into effect Thursday. The Associated Press confirmed that as of this afternoon, Continental matched United’s hikes, and US Airways is considering the idea. United spokesman Robin Urbanski told the AP reporter that fuel costs—which reached a record high of $111 a barrel yesterday—were to blame.

United’s fare increases are based on miles flown, with round-trips of less than 500 miles going up by $4 to $10 and long-haul flight increases ranging from $12 to $50. The biggest increases will affect some of United’s less popular routes, such as Atlanta/Seattle and Boston/Denver. Sticker-shock won’t be as significant on United routes that compete with low-cost carriers like Southwest and JetBlue.

As oil prices have gone up the past several years, the airlines have been raising fares incrementally and adding extra fees (like charging for second checked bags) to keep up. Given that analysts from Goldman Sachs and other groups are speculating that oil prices may rise to $150 to $200 a barrel in the not-so-distant-future, I’d say we’re going see a lot of record-breaking airfare increases too. We’re certainly keeping an eye on the numbers.

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