Airline profits have gained altitude in recent years, with full jets and rising prices providing lift. According to Tom Parsons, editor of Best Fares Discount Travel Magazine, the major airlines have boosted fares 37 times since May 1992. Fares are up 18% since January, with business travelers shouldering a 25% increase. No other industry in the country currently has such pricing power.

Still, summer is traditionally a time of fare wars--with the usual 1,001 restrictions. Last week, on the heels of previous sales by American and TWA, United announced a new volley: round-trip specials, up to 45% off regular 21-day advance-purchase...

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