NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Delta Air Lines kicked off a summer airfare sale Monday, with other carriers quick to follow, but an air fare expert said he expects fliers will be able to top current savings soon.|
Delta, the nation's No. 3 airline, cut fares between 20 percent and 25 percent for tickets purchased by July 8, good on travel through the end of October. An additional 20 percent savings is available for those who purchase tickets online, and first-time buyers can get up to 5,000 bonus miles for buying online.
American Airlines, a unit of AMR Corp. (AMR: down $1.12 to $33.24, Research, Estimates) , came out with its own sale for tickets purchased by June 29 for travel completed by Nov. 15. While it did not specify an additional discount for online purchases, it did give bonus miles for online purchases.
No. 4 Northwest Airlines (NWAC: down $0.63 to $22.61, Research, Estimates) †said it was matching fare cuts as well, and Tom Parsons, president of discount travel service Bestfares.com, said he expected all the majors except for discount carrier Southwest Airlines to be offering similar discounts by the end of the day.
But Parsons said that the current fares are above the sales of two or three weeks ago that brought round-trip coast-to-coast fares as low as $198, and he believes those rock-bottom fares will return sometime soon. He said that even some of the discounted fares aren't matching the standard fares from Southwest for similar routes.
"We've had many, many sales this year," he said. "I can promise you, we'll see coast to coast a lot cheaper than we're seeing it today. The business travelers just aren't there and the airlines only have five-to-six more weeks to pick up the discretionary traveler."
Delta announced its fares on its first work day since settling a pilots strike at its Comair Inc. feeder airline unit, which flew about half the flights under the Delta Connection name before the pilots walked out on March 26.
Pilots at the unit voted almost two-thirds in favor of a tentative agreement there Friday evening. The strike had crippled operations at its Cincinnati hub. Comair is due to resume limited travel on July 2.
American announced over the weekend that it has reached a tentative three-year labor agreement with its mechanics union, but talks recessed without an agreement between American and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.
The talks are due to resume Thursday, but the flight attendants could walk off the job as soon as Sunday without an 11th-hour agreement or intervention from President Bush, who has the power to order them to stay on the job while a federal board studies the dispute.