It looks like United and American have decided that you don’t pay enough to travel on the peak holiday travel days, so they’ve added a $10 surcharge. Is this a new fee? Nah, I think it’s just the lazy man’s fare increase.
You’re always used to paying more to travel on the holidays, right? Usually, this happens because airlines use inventory controls to make you pay a higher fare. So that $99 one way fare just won’t be available (well, ok, maybe on Virgin America). But now American has decided that still aren’t paying enough on certain days, and United has followed. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving and both the Saturday and Sunday after New Year’s, they’ve added a $10 surcharge to nearly all fares.
I’ve already seen some people wondering if this is a new fee that the airlines are starting to add, but really, I don’t see it that way. It’s simply a fare increase but instead of adding blackout dates to the existing fares and filing new fares at a higher level (which is kind of a pain), they just added a blanket surcharge to make things easier for them. Might as well do it this way – you get the same result for the most part.
The most important thing here is that you won’t see anything different as a traveler. When you price out your ticket, that surcharge will already be included, so it’s not a nickel-and-diming type of strategy here.
Airlines have used peak pricing for years. Remember the traditional Southwest $99 sales? Those were only good on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. The rest of the week was $119. The difference here is that it’s just much more specific, and they’ve used a different method for increasing the fare.
One extra benefit for the airlines is that surcharges normally get added on after discounts are taken, though I can’t imagine too many people are traveling on corporate discounts or anything like that on the peak holiday travel days. I really think it was just the easiest way to do a narrow fare increase.
I suppose the news here is that technically, this is a different way of doing things, but ultimately, it’s just a fare increase. Flights on those days are always packed, so they’re just going to try to squeeze some more revenue out while they can. I imagine we’ll see more of this in the future.