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Three largest US airlines roll back $10 fare increase

WASHINGTON -- American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines Inc., the three largest US carriers, rescinded a $10 increase on round-trip tickets because rivals didn't match the higher prices. UAL Corp.'s United, which initiated the increase Thursday for tickets usually purchased by business travelers, canceled it yesterday ``so we can stay competitive," said Robin Urbanski, a spokeswoman for the Elk Grove, Ill.-based carrier.

US airlines have succeeded with 21 broad fare increases since 2005 and failed 17 times, said Jamie Baker, a JPMorgan Securities analyst, in a note yesterday. They have tried to raise prices this year to help pay higher costs for jet fuel. The latest attempt was for first-class seats and tickets bought within seven days of a flight's departure in all US markets.

``We could see this come right back," with another attempt in days or weeks, said Terry Trippler, a fare analyst in Minneapolis for

AMR Corp.'s American, the world's largest airline, matched United's increase Friday and rescinded it Saturday because ``we can't afford to be out of line with others," said Tim Wagner, a spokesman for the Fort Worth, Texas-based company.

Delta matched United Sunday and dropped the increase yesterday, said Betsy Talton, a spokeswoman for the Atlanta-based carrier. Delta has been in bankruptcy since September.

UAL shares fell 87 cents to $24.01 in Nasdaq trading. AMR declined 45 cents to $20.49 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Delta shares fell 1 cent to 71 cents in over-the-counter trading.

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