(Corrects first sentence to say that Delta and Continental hiked fares first)
Major U.S. airlines have matched a domestic fare increase initiated by Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines, marking the fifth industrywide fare hike in 2009, a top fare analyst said on Friday.
The $10 round-trip increase is the second hike in two weeks as carriers struggle for pricing power during the economic downturn, said Rick Seaney, chief executive of Farecompare.com.
Airfare hikes that are matched this quickly by all network airlines rarely fail and are rolled back, Seaney said in a research note.
Seaney said he is waiting to see if low-cost carriers like Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways also match the increase.
The airline industry has been battered in recent years by low-fare competition and volatile fuel prices. The economic recession that started in 2008 has eroded travel demand and forced carriers to slash capacity.
Airline executives said this week that they have seen signs of returning demand. Increased demand could give carriers a foundation for more fare hikes.
Seaney said there were 15 fares hikes initiated and broadly matched by U.S. carriers in 2008 and 17 such increases in 2007.
The Arca airline index was up 0.3 percent on Friday.
(Reporting by Kyle Peterson, editing by Dave Zimmerman)