In mid-March, you might remember that US Airways decided to lower fares from Rochester to a bunch of cities and said it would monitor them to see if it was the right move. Now that we have two months under our belt, how are fares looking? It’s a mixed bag, but some low fares remain while others are long gone.
In the US Airways internal newsletter from the end of March, it said “These fare reductions will be analyzed over the next two months to determine whether an increase in passenger loads is sufficient to offset the decrease in fares.” It’s been two months. Here’s where things stand:
You’ll probably want to click on that chart to see it full-size, but what you’ll see is that largely across the board, last minute fares have stayed low while leisure roundtrip fares have shot up. The most interesting thing, in fact, is that advance purchase fares have virtually disappeared from the market. Now, nearly everything is a walk-up fare, though the lowest fares do sometimes at least require a roundtrip purchase.
Why would US Airways do that?
This is all speculation, but what US Airways may be finding is that by lowering its last minute fares, it was getting more of those last minute business travelers on its airplanes. That means the airline has fewer seats to fill with leisure fares. If leisure demand remains strong, then those remaining seats can be filled with leisure travelers at those walk-up fare levels.
You might think that this means US Airways has one fare in the market, but that’s certainly not true. There are just a lot of different walk-up fares. In the Rochester to Philly market, for example, there are six different fares. The lowest requires a roundtrip purchase and a one night stay. The next three are non-refundable and the last two are refundable. Those are the only differences.
You might not think this makes any sense, but US Airways can just use its revenue management system to decide how many seats to sell at each level instead of relying on hard-coded fare rules to make the decision. It gives the airline more flexibility, but it also requires that more attention is paid to the process.
Is this the final state of things in Rochester? I doubt it. Nothing is final when it comes to pricing. But if you’re looking at it from a business traveler perspective, it’s good news so far. From a leisure traveler perspective? It’s not nearly as cheap as it was. But let’s check again in a couple months to see where things stand. I’m marking it on my calendar.