Delta Air Lines
reportedly plans to roll out a nationwide expansion of the simplified fare experiment it's been conducting in Cincinnati.
Such an expansion could help Delta attract more customers -- the airline's chief executive has said simplified fares in Cincinnati caused traffic there to increase by one-third. It could also intensify pricing pressure in the U.S., where fierce competition and overcapacity have hurt airline bottom lines even as passenger demand has risen.
The nation's third-largest airline plans to roll out a new pricing structure later this month, according to media reports that cited people familiar with the airline's plans.
magazine first reported the plans in its online edition Sunday.
Delta shares were up 13 cents, or 1.7%, to $7.61. Other airline stocks were up as well, after crude oil prices started the session lower. The Amex Airline Index was up 1.5%.
With the Cincinnati "SimpliFares" program, which was rolled out in August, the airline reduced the number of fares per flight to two in first class and six in economy. It also slashed the highest fares. For example, Delta reduced the old full walk-up fare to Los Angeles to $499 from $1,202. It also eliminated the Saturday night-stay requirement on flights out of Cincinnati.
A Delta spokeswoman Monday read the following statement: "Delta has not announced any changes to its fare structure. It is Delta's policy not to make any public statements concerning specific fare changes before those changes are effective."
Nevertheless, CEO Gerald Grinstein last month raved about the Cincinnati experiment, citing it as an example of what network carriers could do to win back the trust of passengers who had flocked to low-cost carriers like
. He said passengers were frustrated by paying more than $1,000 for a ticket only to find their in-flight neighbors paid a couple of hundred dollars for the same tickets. Although Grinstein declined to say whether Delta would roll out the program at other hubs, he noted an increase in Cincinnati traffic "in the neighborhood" of one-third.
Delta is in the midst of an ambitious restructuring plan. The airline dodged a bankruptcy filing in November when its pilots union agreed to concessions valued at about $1 billion a year.