The Return Of Pricing Power

At long last, companies find they can charge more for lots of things, from beef to PCs

Continental Airlines Inc. took the first big step in February, when it tacked on a $20-per-trip surcharge, blaming higher fuel costs. Most of the industry followed fast. Then, in March, Northwest Airlines Corp. hiked fares some $20 to $40 round-trip. Again, rivals are following suit. "Our planes are full, so our prices are not too high," Continental chief Gordon M. Bethune argues drily. Over at rival AMR Corp., Chief Financial Officer Thomas W. Horton adds: "There's more pricing power clearly in industry right now."

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