While acknowledging that air fares are up, an eagerly-awaited private study of ticket prices out of the Salt Lake International Airport showed this week that Delta Airlines - despite its dominant hub operation at the airport - has not been gouging the public.

Although the study wasn't aimed specifically at Delta - all airline prices were examined - it ought to lay to rest rumors and complaints about Delta fares and let the airline and the flying public put the issue behind them.Actually, the study done by Kurth & Co. Inc. for the Utah Air Travel Commission made Delta look rather good. The survey was done on fares charged in the fourth quarter of 1987. The only question is why more current figures were not used.

The report said Delta fares at Salt Lake International Airport were 5.7 percent above the industry average but were lower than Denver and lower than the average in 23 other markets out of 47 studied.

Some abnormally high fares were found, but all were associated with short-haul flights to cities like Denver, Boise, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The high ticket prices for such trips are the price paid for the convenience of several flights a day to such destinations, particularly since Salt Lake City is a relatively small market, the Kurth study said.

Without the Delta hub, there might not be frequent jet service to short-haul cities at any price.

In general, increasing fares at hub cities is part of a national trend and is not aimed at Salt Lake travelers.

That information does not make it any easier to pay out the money for plane tickets, but at least it does remove the suspicion of a conspiracy.