UNITED'S 'CANDOR' PROMPTS ADS FOR ROUND-TRIP FARES: AMERICAN FOLLOWS SUIT AS OTHERS MULL DROPPING ONE-WAY TACTIC

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Following an initiative by United Airlines, the industry is poised to reverse a longtime marketing tactic by advertising full round-trip fares during sales.

Other carriers are considering the idea, which has already been adopted by American Airlines. Traditionally, one-way fares for round trips have been used in sale ads.

PART OF 'RISING' CAMPAIGN

As part of its new "Rising" campaign, United broke national newspaper ads July 2 and 10 for a 45%-off fare that said: "The airline sale that will get you there and back home again."

Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, is the agency.

"Part of our customer-satisfaction philosophy is candor and honesty," said Doug Williams, United advertising manager, referring to the airline's five-year improvement program. "I think this will be the new standard in the industry, though there will be some mavericks."

Said an American spokesman: "It's something we've favored for a long time but been unable to do. We'd like to see it stick; it's clearer."

Now that two of the biggest airlines have paved the way, other carriers-including Northwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Continental Airlines and America West-are examining the idea though they haven't yet committed to it.

Delta has occasionally printed round-trip fares, said a spokeswoman, who added that "if it becomes a customer expectation," the idea could be implemented quickly.

The U.S. Department of Transportation in the past has targeted questionable advertising practices of airlines, but allowed one-way fares as long as airlines provide "accurate disclosure" about details.

'MOST DESIRABLE WAY'

"The total-dollar price [being used now by United and American] is the most desirable way to display fares," said a DOT spokesman last week. "One-way is acceptable as long as the consumer has the info to compute it."

The DOT levied $1.2 million in airline fines in 1995 and again in '96 for ad disclosure problems.

"My reaction to this movement is that it's silly," said Jim O'Donnell, chairman of Seabrook Marketing, a consultancy. "It sounds to me like the ultimate politically correct move and [that United is] trying to put meat on the bones of 'Rising."

Separately last week, the DOT sent out letters to the top eight air carriers for information on disclosure of seat limitations on frequent-flier programs.

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