By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Faced with sagging ridership in August, Delta Air Lines Monday launched a major nationwide fare sale, with prices being slashed by an average of 20 percent across the system.
US Airways, Northwest and United airlines quickly matched Delta's fares, in what observers said was 2003's biggest sale yet.
Some round-trip examples out of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, the airline's second-largest hub, include Chicago for $178 and Fort Myers, Fla., for $238.
In addition, online travel agency Orbitz told some of its customers via e-mail that a flight from Cincinnati to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was $148, while Orlando was $224.
Because the airline was cutting fares across the system, Tristate travelers seeking bargains might be able to find even lower fares in neighboring cities such as Dayton, Lexington, Louisville, Columbus and Indianapolis. Air fares from Cincinnati are among the nation's highest.
Delta said most cities would see some kind of discount, although some cuts might be more or less than the 20 percent average.
Fall fare sales are common, but Delta is trying to drive as much traffic as possible, hence the wide scope of the sale announced Monday. The Atlanta-based carrier actually saw total ridership drop in August, as compared with the same month last year.
Tickets must be bought by Sunday and 21 days in advance of travel, and the trip must be started and completed between Oct. 13-Jan. 31. There are several blackout dates surrounding the holidays. Also, the sale is good only for travel on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, and a one-night stay is required.
Finally, there might only be a few seats a flight on sale, meaning availability may be limited.
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