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Top U.S. airlines cut rates

Wire and staff reports

Airlines are making steep cuts in prices, some as much as 25 percent, in a year during which the base ticket price has gone up 11 percent.

Northwest Airlines, the nation's fourth-largest airline, kicked off the fare sale during the weekend. United Airlines, the nation's largest carrier, and No. 2 American Airlines were among those matching the sale, which includes most of the continental U.S., Hawaii, and Canada.

It's pretty much systemwide, said American spokesman Tim Smith.

Airlines have been under pricing pressure in 1999 as they add planes to their fleets and additional seats become available.

The pricing cuts don't appear to have hit direct flights out of Medford to Portland, Seattle and San Francisco, according to local travel agents. However, fares on flights to other destinations that go through those cities were down Monday.

For example, Linda Scott of Rogue Travel noted that fares for flights from Medford through Portland to Honolulu were down about $150, to $470 round trip.

Trips from Medford though Portland to New York were down to $461 from about $615, according to Shana Berriochoa of Carlson Travel Made Easy.

Northwest's computer system posted discounts of as much as 25 percent on some off-peak fares. The fare changes were formally announced on Monday.

Some fare examples include an American off-peak fare of $354 round trip from New York to Dallas-Fort Worth with a 14-day advance purchase. That's compared to an everyday rate of $472, according to Smith. A Chicago to San Francisco round trip, advance purchase, off-peak price would be $446, compared to an everyday price of $594, he said.

Other airlines offering the discounts include U.S. Airways, America West, Continental, Trans World Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

Many international flights were announced as part of the sale as well, but those discounts have actually been available for more than a week, according to Tom Parsons, editor of www.bestfares.com, an Internet site that tracks travel costs.

Parsons suggests consumers could get better fares through some spot sales. He suggested travelers contact a travel agent to search for the best price.

There's a mismatch of cheaper air fares out there, he said. This is not one of those fare sales to write home to mom about. But with this sale more people can participate.