U.S. airlines jack up fares for third time in 2016

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U.S. air carriers have implemented their third fare hike since the beginning of 2016

The latest hike, amounting to $10 per roundtrip, was initiated on Feb. 19 by Southwest.

Delta, United and American matched the increase later that day, and the new prices have held since, according to the website Fare Compare.

This hike comes on the heels of increases initiated on Jan. 4 (by Delta) and Feb. 10 (by JetBlue). In total the three hikes amount to $22 per roundtrip. By comparison, U.S. carriers initiated just two successful fare hikes in 2015.

Two other attempts to raise fares this month failed, according to Fare Compare.

Fare Compare noted that business travelers, those who purchase tickets at the last minute and those who live in smaller markets would shoulder most of the fare increases. Hikes were not detected on fare sales or hotly contested routes.

In an email Wednesday, George Hobica, president of the website Airfarewatchdog, questioned whether the fare hikes have any real-world significance.

"Just one reason is that they are just as easily reversed on various routes without much fanfare, so the average overall fares might actually go down," he wrote. "Let's see what consumers actually end up paying for tickets, not what the airlines attempted to sell them for."

Airfares in January were down 1.7% compared with 2015, according to the Consumer Price Index, but they increased a seasonally adjusted 1.2% between this past December and January.

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