updated 11/13/2006 5:52:52 PM ET 2006-11-13T22:52:52

Delta Air Lines Inc. cut many bargain fares on flights through Dec. 12, although the deals don't apply to the busiest days around Thanksgiving and may sell out quickly.

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The timing of the fare sale caught analysts off-guard, coming just over a week after Delta and American Airlines raised fares on most of their U.S. routes.

"It is a good deal, and if you want to get away between now and Dec. 12, I recommend people check it out," said Terry Trippler, who tracks the airline industry for myvacationpassport.com. He said the sale applied to the lowest booking class and will sell out early.

Trippler noted that the fare sale is only temporary while increases, such as the $10 per round trip boost of two weeks ago, are permanent.

Neil Bainton of farecompare.com said the sale prices, filed in ticketing systems Sunday, applied to 7-day advance-purchase tickets.

Bainton calculated the average reduction at $281, which he said was a surprisingly deep cut. He said many represented new lows on specific routes.

The sale does not include Nov. 22, 25 and 26 - the Wednesday before and the weekend after Thanksgiving Day. Those are heavy travel days, and airlines hope to sell out those flights without offering lower fares.

American - a unit of AMR Corp. - Continental Airlines Inc. and UAL Corp.'s United Airlines said they matched the fare sale on Monday. Officials at several other carriers did not immediately return calls for comment.

Julie King, a spokeswoman for Houston-based Continental, said the sale applied to most markets in the United States and Canada. The sale fares require an overnight stay, she said.

On Nov. 2, American and Delta imposed a broad $10 per round trip fare increase on business and leisure fares. The increase was matched by most other U.S. carriers.

U.S. airlines have enacted nearly two dozen widespread fare increase in the past two years, according to analysts. Airlines say they need higher fares to cover the cost of jet fuel.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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