Save Me a Cheap Seat

The troubled airline industry dissolves into an all-out fare war

Travelers cheered but Wall Street booed when U.S. airlines slashed many airfares to their lowest levels in at least a decade. Northwest ignited the latest wars by cutting advance-purchase coach fares in half for families traveling with children ages 2 to 17 in the 48 contiguous states. American topped that by offering 50% off all advance-purchase coach seats on flights in the same region. Most other major carriers swiftly followed American's lead. The reductions cut the round-trip price of New York-Los Angeles flights to just $200 while fares between Atlanta and Chicago fell to $130.

The discounts delighted consumers, who swamped...

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