DALLAS Major airlines moved Friday to match a fare sale started by Southwest Airlines Co., as the carriers worry about weak demand for travel during a recession.
Southwest said that through Monday it would sell seats to almost everywhere it flies starting at $49 to $99 each way. Tickets must be bought at least 14 days before flying, travel must be completed by March 11 and seats are limited, the airline said.
AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, Continental Airlines Inc., US Airways Group Inc., JetBlue Airways Corp. and Delta Air Lines Inc. matched the Southwest prices, officials at those carriers said. UAL Corp.'s United Airlines has its own fare sale that began on Jan. 16, but was still studying Southwest's fare sale, spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said.
A three-day sale by AirTran ended Thursday night.
Dallas-based Southwest launched the sale shortly after announcing Thursday that it lost money in the fourth quarter, its second-straight losing quarter after 69 straight profitable ones.
Chief Executive Gary Kelly said Thursday that there was "notable softness" in February and March bookings. The day before, AMR Chief Financial Officer Thomas Horton said March looked particularly weak.
Airlines often match their rivals' fares rather than risk losing price-sensitive passengers.
Last year, airlines raised prices several times and imposed new fees on checked bags to counter rising fuel prices. Although fuel prices have fallen sharply, most of the fees are still in effect.
Meltdown 101: Travel industry vs. the 'staycation' By RYAN NAKASHIMA, AP Business Writer Ryan Nakashima, Ap Business Writer Thu Jan 22, 10:20 am ET
When the economy goes into the tank, people stay at home. But for those still willing to see what's out there, there are stupendous deals to be had.
Hotels, resorts and cruise lines are offering rock-bottom rates and doing everything they can to fill rooms, including teaming up with airlines to offer jaw-dropping package deals. And savvy consumers can reap the benefits.
A case in point: This reporter recently booked a Waldorf Astoria suite in the Palm Springs, Calif., area through Priceline.com for about $130 after taxes -- in the middle of a holiday weekend, no less. Although we didn't know where we'd end up, the 900-square-foot "Spa Villa" where we ended up staying is listed next weekend for $679 a night.
The Walt Disney Co. is also offering a seven-night stay at its Walt Disney World resorts, including seven days of park tickets, for the price of four nights and four days of tickets. And it's throwing in a $200 gift card that can be spent on food and merchandise.
According to one travel agency Web site's spokeswoman, travel deals haven't been better since the aftermath of 9/11.
Here are some questions and answers about what kind of deals are out there and how to snag them.
Q: Why are companies offering such cut rates now?
A: Around the world, occupancy and room rates are down as business travel has fallen and vacationers are staying at home because of the recession. According to Smith Travel Research, occupancy in North American hotels was down 10.3 percent in November from a year ago, to 52.3 percent. The average daily rate was down 3.3 percent, to $101.84, while the revenue per available room was down 13.3 percent, to $53.28.
In other words, hotels are about half-full these days. And if you are a paying customer, management is willing to cut you a deal.