Friday, September 3, 2004

American Airlines adds
service fee for ticket purchases

By David Koenig
The Associated Press

DALLAS - American Airlines says it will begin charging a service fee of $5 or $10 to buy a ticket over the phone or at an airport counter, copying a similar move by Northwest Airlines.

American, the largest U.S. carrier, said it expects to reap $25 million from the fees, which take effect Monday.

The airline will charge $5 for customers who buy a ticket through a telephone reservations center and $10 for customers who buy at the ticket counter. The charges will apply equally to one-way and round-trip tickets.

Northwest announced the same fees last month. American, however, did not match Northwest's move to tack a $7.50 service fee on round-trip tickets bought through systems used by travel agents.

Delta Air Lines, which operates its second-largest hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, had not matched the fee as of late Thursday.

The American Society of Travel Agents and the Business Travel Coalition have asked the Justice Department to investigate Northwest's fees, which they said were encouraging other carriers to also raise prices.

Tim Wagner, a spokesman for American, said the fee was designed to offset rising prices for jet fuel and to keep a range of methods for buying tickets. He said it would affect about 20 percent of tickets American sells. About half are sold through travel agents and corporate travel departments; 30 percent are sold on the Internet.

American said it will waive the fee for elite members of its frequent-flier program and for military bereavement fares.

Staff writer James Pilcher contributed.

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