Both Delta/Northwest and Continental Raise Airfares

This evening (Wednesday), in the 8pm EDT domestic airfare distribution, both Delta/Northwest and Continental simultaneously increased airfares on the bulk of their respective route systems by $10 roundtrip.

A quick check of both airlines’ hubs shows significant price structure changes with Continental deviating slightly with increases of $10 roundtrip on most routes and a smattering of hikes at the $6 and $4 roundtrip level.

If this hike sticks, it would be the 5th broad based airfare increase this year and the second in two weeks. Historically, the low cost airlines have not matched airfare hikes in back-to-back weeks, but we will keep an eye on them for possible matching activity – and note that both AirTran and Southwest have sales that were filed Monday and are set to expire tomorrow (Thursday).

At Wednesday’s Southwest Airlines media event, CEO Gary Kelly noted that Southwest will have a record load factor in October and that bookings were looking good for November and December – though he did voice concerns about oil prices cresting the $80 per barrel mark this week.

As for this latest airfare hike attempt – it should serve as a wakeup call for holiday procrastinators: the pendulum is swinging away from the consumer-friendly price points of the past year, and all who plan to fly during the holidays should be shopping now and buying holiday tickets promptly.

We will provide updates on any significant matching activity (or rollback activity) in the coming days.

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Published: October 22, 2009