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Southeast air fares took off

Air fares have more than doubled at many airports in the Southeast since the airline industry was deregulated in 1978, even though the average fare nationwide increased only 41.5 percent during the decade, a government study shows. The Department of Transportation (DOT) study, released last week amid government claims that deregulation has brought more service and lower fares, shows that Memphis, Atlanta and Charlotte recorded the steepest fare increases among the nation's 27 large hub airports.

Ted Harris, a Washington-based airline industry analyst and former DOT consultant, said the price hikes are indicative of the lack of the competition among airlines in the Southeastern markets.

But Steve Hayes, a spokesman for the American Transport Association, which represents the major airline carriers, said it is just a coincidence that the three Southeastern airports had the biggest fare increases.

Jim Lundy, spokesman for Delta Air Lines, which dominates in Atlanta, said the study masks the fact that deregulation has brought a tremendous increase in the number of flights available in Atlanta, most of them non-stop flights that carry higher-than-normal fares.

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