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New Fare War Spurred by Northwest Price Cuts : Airlines: Six major carriers say they'll match the 30% cuts on travel to Africa, India, Middle East and Europe.

January 25, 1994|From Reuters

NEW YORK — The nation's top airlines joined in the latest air fare war Monday, matching 30% price cuts on overseas travel set by Northwest Airlines over the weekend.

United Airlines, American Airlines, Trans World Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Continental and USAir said they will match the cuts initiated by Northwest and partner KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

Northwest on Sunday unveiled the fares on tickets to 80 destinations in Africa, India, the Middle East and Europe.

For African and Asian destinations, tickets must be purchased by Feb. 11, and for Europe by Feb. 28., for travel between April 1 and Oct. 31.

As with most recent sales, passengers who book tickets early get the biggest discounts.

It was the first coordinated action on fares by the two airlines, which are operating in a business alliance. Northwest Airlines Corp. is a subsidiary of NWA Inc. KLM owns 49% of Northwest.

The St. Paul, Minn.-based air carrier has often been a pacesetter in air fare price cuts, and most other carriers are typically forced to follow its lead in order to be competitive.

The Northwest flights will connect with KLM Royal Dutch flights out of Amsterdam. Northwest said a ticket between Detroit and Paris would cost $638; San Francisco and Amsterdam, $758; New York and Bombay, $1,258, and Boston and Tel Aviv, $898.

The discounts took some industry experts by surprise because they occurred unexpectedly early and covered an unusually long period.

"We would have preferred to have waited to see if we needed to stimulate the market," said Bill Berry, a spokesman for Delta.

Weak overseas traffic plagued U.S. carriers in 1993, especially in Europe, where the sluggish economy has cut into leisure travel.

For Northwest and United, the one exception has been the Far East.

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