Airlines start fourth quarter on high note

NEW YORK -- Airline shares joined the rally in the broader market as the fourth quarter got under way.

Shares of Delta Air Lines Inc. and US Airways Group Inc. were the best performers in the group with gains of 3.4 percent and 2.5 percent. United Continental Holdings Inc., the world's biggest carrier, showed an increase of 1.6 percent.

All three airlines had double-digit declines in the third quarter, when surging oil prices pushed up the cost of jet fuel.

Shares for most of the major U.S. airlines are still up for the year. They've tried to offset higher fuel costs by raising fares and charging fees for baggage, early boarding and extra legroom. US Airways stock has more than doubled as investors bet on an eventual merger with American Airlines, which is currently under bankruptcy protection.

Delta rose 31 cents to $9.48, United gained 32 cents to $19.82 and US Airways rose 26 cents to $10.73. Southwest Airlines Co., which carriers the most passengers within the U.S., gained 11 cents, or 1.2 percent to $8.88.