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Major Airlines Follow Northwest in Raising Fares

Smaller carriers are expected to follow suit.

Updated from 10:49 a.m. EST

As expected, many of the major airlines followed

Northwest Airlines'

(NWAC)

lead on Friday morning, imposing across-the-board fare increases of up to $40 on roundtrip tickets.

According to

BestFares.com

, a discount travel Web site,

American Airlines

,

United Airlines

(UAL) - Get Report

,

Delta Air Lines

(DAL) - Get Report

and

Continental

(CAL) - Get Report

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all raised their fares, making it highly likely that the increases will stick and passengers will be paying more to fly.

Even so, airline stocks were mostly lower Friday, dragging the American Stock Exchange Airline Index down 3 15/32, or 2.6%, to close at 132.25.

Airlines have come under pressure as fuel prices have risen to historic levels, exerting cost pressure on their bottom lines. Fuel is one of the airlines' biggest expenses.

Last week, Continental followed by other leading airlines

raised fares up to $40 round trip on full-fare tickets only. Northwest held out, forcing them to roll back the

increase.

On Thursday, Northwest announced a broader fare increase, that would consist of more moderate increases on all fares. Northwest said it had increased unrestricted fares and some special fares by $20 to $40 round trip and its regular excursion fares by $10 to $20. Other fares, including those for seniors, military personnel and CyberSaver fares, were increased by various amounts. Northwest also raised fees for such services as excess luggage, pet transportation, lost-ticket replacement and other handling fees by $5 to $25.

Analysts said that the across-the-board structure of the increases would be more acceptable to passengers, thus reducing the pressure to offer discounts and increasing yields.

Tom Parsons, editor and publisher of Bestfares.com., said he expected to see smaller carriers such as

TWA

(TWA)

,

US Airways

(U) - Get Report

and

America West

(AWA)

match the fare increases later Friday.