updated 9/2/2004 2:22:23 PM ET 2004-09-02T18:22:23

American Airlines says it will begin charging a service fee of $5 or $10 to buy a ticket over the phone or at an airport counter, copying a similar move by Northwest Airlines.

American, the largest U.S. carrier and a unit of AMR Corp., said it expects to reap $25 million from the fees, which take effect Monday.

The airline will charge $5 for customers who buy a ticket through a telephone reservations center and $10 for customers who buy at the ticket counter. The charges will apply equally to one-way and round-trip tickets.

Northwest announced the same fees last month. American, however, did not match Northwest’s move to tack a $7.50 service fee on round-trip tickets bought through systems used by travel agents.

The American Society of Travel Agents and the Business Travel Coalition have asked the Justice Department to investigate Northwest’s fees, which they said were encouraging other carriers to also raise prices. Airlines are prohibited from acting together on pricing.

Tim Wagner, a spokesman for American, said the fee was designed to offset rising prices for jet fuel and keep a range of methods for buying tickets.

Wagner said the fee would affect about 20 percent of the tickets American sells. About 50 percent are sold through travel agents and corporate travel departments, and 30 percent are sold on American’s Web site and other Internet outlets.

American said it would waive the fee for elite members of its frequent-flier program, on military bereavement fares and for speakers of some foreign languages who don’t have a full range of ticketing options.

Airlines are trying to drive more sales to their Web sites, which are cheaper to operate than call centers and ticket counters.

Wagner said it was too early to say whether the fees would let the airline cut jobs at its call centers or ticket counters.

American and other airlines have tried to raise fares several times this year, citing higher fuel costs, but have often been frustrated because some carriers declined to go along.

Wagner declined to say whether Fort Worth-based American would drop the service fees if others airlines don’t match it.

“We’re committed to this at this time,” he said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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