AMERICAN matches United fare cuts for Chicago flights, relaxes stay-over policy

Saturday, August 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ American Airlines on Saturday said they would match a move by rival United Airlines by slashing fares on some flights between Chicago's O'Hare International and other major U.S. cities.

The nation's largest carrier also promised to eliminate Saturday night stay restrictions for an unspecified number of flights.

``We have matched United on a limited number of flights in and out of Chicago,'' said American spokesman Dale Morris on Saturday. ``We've matched all their pricing and all their provisions as well.''

Chicago-based United announced their cuts Thursday, responding to increased competition from lower-cost flights at nearby Midway Airport.

The move to eliminate the Saturday-night stay restriction was a bid by the nation's No. 2 carrier to win back business travel that has dropped off drastically in a weaker economy.

Morris said Fort Worth-based American began matching United's fares Thursday evening.

``Business travel has been down for everyone _ for the entire industry due to the economic situation,'' Morris said.

Morris said the lower fares would remain in effect indefinitely, adding that he didn't know of price reductions from cities other than Chicago.

Fares for certain flights between O'Hare and cities on both coasts were cut by more than half as United moved to match fares offered by America Trans Air, the nation's 10th-largest airline, which recently expanded its hub at Midway.

Unlike ATA's fares, United's and American's reductions take effect only with travel starting Sept. 5, and seven-day advance purchase is required.

Leading carriers have been lowering their fares since mid-June to cope with corporate cutbacks in air travel and lower prices offered by their discount-oriented competitors.

Tom Parsons, editor of online discount travel agency, said other major carriers like Continental, Delta and US Airways also have followed United's lead.

In May, Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest Airlines started a domestic pricing category allowing passengers who purchase tickets 14 days in advance to stay overnight any night of the week.

``It's a war out there,'' Parsons said. ``I think United and American believed because they offered so many nonstops they didn't have to be competitive.''