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Airlines drastically lower prices to draw back customers after terrorist attacks

Updated:

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ The nation's biggest airlines have launched a sale that provides considerable discounts to get travelers back in the air after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Passenger loads have fallen off sharply since terrorist hijacked four airliners last month. To boost passenger loads, No. 3 Delta Air Lines kicked off the global fare sale, and industry leader United Airlines, No. 2 American Airlines and No. 4 Northwest Airlines quickly matched.

Terry Trippler, airline expert with OneTravel.com, said it appeared all of the major airlines had matched the fares by Thursday afternoon.

``This is the clearance sale. There are some people who will never travel at any price and there are some people who have a price at which they will travel. For many people, not all of them, this is the price that will get them to travel,'' Trippler said.

No. 4 Northwest, for example, was offering roundtrips between New York and Los Angeles for $279, Minneapolis-Boston for $251 and Detroit-Dallas for $251. Delta's roundtrip prices included New York-Mexico City for $200, Atlanta-Zurich for $342 and Chicago-Honolulu for $398.

The new sales came as Northwest said the number of passengers flying on its planes dropped nearly 34 percent in September, from a year ago.

Northwest's traffic decline was in line with what other major carriers have reported in the wake of the attacks, which have forced more than 100,000 job cuts at the airlines and in related industries.

Spokesman Bill Mellon said he did not know how full planes need to be before Northwest begins adding back flights and widely recalling employees who have been laid off since Sept. 11.

One travel professional questioned the wisdom of slashing prices in a down economy.

``We think the danger of the price war is, how does that help airlines become financially solvent?'' said Doug Cody, spokesman for Carlson Cos., which counts travel agencies, hotels, resorts, restaurants and cruise ships among its operations.
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