- The Washington Times - Friday, September 30, 2005

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — American Airlines announced yesterday it was temporarily cutting flights in markets it serves from its two largest hubs, citing high jet fuel prices that were also blamed for a new round of fare increases.

American, the nation’s largest passenger air carrier, said it was canceling 15 round trips temporarily from Chicago O’Hare and Dallas-Fort Worth international airports. Northwest Airlines also announced modest flight reductions.

American’s cutbacks were announced a day after Continental Airlines raised most fares on flights within the United States and between the U.S. and Canada, also blaming jet fuel costs. The Houston-based carrier raised one-way fares $10 and round-trip fares $20.

United Airlines, the nation’s second-largest airline, matched the fare increases, as did American. Delta Air Lines also has been crunched by rising jet fuel prices, and yesterday decided to also match the increase, said Chris Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Atlanta-based carrier.

The flight cutbacks will go into effect Wednesday and continue through Oct. 29, when American said it will evaluate the jet fuel market and decide whether to restore the flights.

“The skyrocketing price of jet fuel has forced American Airlines to take the regretful step,” according to a statement issued by the Fort Worth-based airline.

Jet fuel costs have risen 39 percent in the past month. That alone prompted the decision, said Dan Garton, American’s executive vice president. American said jet fuel cost 91 percent more Thursday than in September 2004, while crude oil prices had increased just half of that amount, 45 percent, in the same period.

One round-trip flight each day is also being canceled between Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta; Denver; El Paso, Texas; Newark, N.J.; Washington Dulles; Houston (Bush) Intercontinental; Kansas City, Mo.; Chicago O’Hare; Toronto; Minneapolis-St. Paul; and Tulsa, Okla. Two round trips a day between Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin also are being canceled.

One round-trip flight a day will be canceled from Chicago O’Hare to Houston (Bush) Intercontinental and Toronto.

American also said it would discontinue flights between Chicago O’Hare and Nagoya, Japan, at the end of October because of fuel prices.

American said it cut back in markets that would have plenty of other American flights operating.

“We have made incredible progress in lowering our operational costs for over two years now. However, skyrocketing fuel costs have eaten up all of those savings and more,” Mr. Garton said.

Northwest said yesterday that fuel prices prompted it to suspend its daily Minneapolis-to-London flight from Oct. 30 to March 9, and to reduce its Detroit-to-Paris flight from daily to five per week from Jan. 16 to March 9. Northwest had already suspended its nonstop New York-to-Tokyo flight, instead sending passengers through Minneapolis or Detroit.

Northwest has said it expects to spend at least $3.3 billion on fuel this year, a 50 percent increase over its fuel bill of $2.2 billion last year.

US Airways spokesman Carlo Bertolini says there are no plans to cancel flights or alter schedules based on current fuel prices.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines did not immediately take any action due to fuel prices.

“We have 85 percent of our fuel bill hedged at $26 a barrel,” said Beth Harbin, spokeswoman for the low-fare carrier. “Because we were able to purchase insurance against those high prices, we’re paying a lower average per gallon than the rest of the industry.”

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