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More carriers match air fare increases

DALLAS -- Higher air fares looked more likely yesterday as American Airlines, Northwest Airlines, and JetBlue Airways went along with competitors' increases the companies said were necessary to offset rising fuel prices.

Airline stocks skidded after a three-week surge pushed the price of crude oil near a record $67 a barrel during the day, taking jet fuel prices along with it.

The latest round of increases began Wednesday night with United Airlines, a unit of UAL Corp., Delta Air Lines Inc., and Continental Airlines Inc. They were followed Thursday by US Airways Group Inc.

By yesterday, American, the largest US carrier, had raised most domestic fares by $10 per round trip and some by $20 a round trip to match Delta, a spokesman said.

Northwest matched Delta's $20 round-trip rise on midlevel leisure fares and expanded it to walk-up fares that had been capped at $599 each way, said Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch.

JetBlue raised Florida fares and one leisure fare on longer flights by $10 per round trip, a spokeswoman said.

Some low-cost carriers, notably Southwest Airlines Co., had not matched the increases.

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