Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) has urged the chief executive officer of US Airways Group Inc. to rescind the airline's fare increase planned for flights between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in early January, when only US Airways will fly between the two cities.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Tuesday that when Southwest Airlines Co. drops its flights between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on Jan. 8, the price for a US Airways round-trip ticket will jump from $118 plus tax to $698 plus tax.

An Inquirer check of US Airways' website Wednesday found the $118 fare ($140 with tax) was for passengers who stayed in Pittsburgh multiple nights. The $698 fare ($720 with taxes) was for nonstop flights within the same day: fly out in the morning and back at night.

For travelers who stay one night, the fare dropped to $531 with taxes and fees, and was even lower for passengers who stayed multiple nights, or on a Saturday night. Air fares can fluctuate several times a day, and vary widely depending on the time, day, and how full planes are.

The highest fares for nonstop and same-day travel are aimed at business travelers. Those fares are traditionally higher than for leisure passengers who can stay multiple nights.

Casey wrote US Airways CEO Doug Parker: "In the midst of a fragile economic recovery, this exorbitant fare hike would have a detrimental impact on businesses and individuals that rely on this service."

"The Philadelphia-to-Pittsburgh route is flown regularly by business travelers," Casey wrote. "A significant increase in price could potentially hurt Pennsylvania businesses that rely on this route."

US Airways spokesman Todd Lehmacher said: "We appreciate Sen. Casey taking the time to contact Mr. Parker and we will respond directly to the senator regarding his concerns."

"Pricing decisions are made based on demand and what the market will bear," Lehmacher said. "Fares change all the time."

Contact staff writer Linda Loyd

at 215-854-2831 or