Cranky on the Web – Jacking Up Fares in a Crisis

PHL - Philadelphia, US Airways

Did airlines jack up fares after Amtrak wreck? It’s unclearPhiladelphia Inquirer
I was intereviewed for this story, but I can’t say I agree with the headline. Looking at National and Philly to JFK and LaGuardia, the fares were the same. In some cases, fares were higher than the lowest possible, because airplanes were full. But I was seeing plenty of flights selling the lowest (already incredibly high) walkup fare each day.

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5 comments on “Cranky on the Web – Jacking Up Fares in a Crisis

  1. While the statement that they didn’t raise fares could very well be true, it doesn’t rule out the possibility that the number of seats in each fare bucket could have been changed.

  2. I wonder if airlines even had to do that much. I imagine that flights between Boston/NY/Philly/DC have a large fraction of short-notice, inelastic-demand business travel anyhow, and that fare buckets are already structured to take advantage of this fact.

    If I were looking for evidence of dastardly deeds, I would look at the fare buckets of connecting flights that used these northeastern shuttles as one of two segments. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that those (possibly cheaper) fares disappeared to make room for displaced Amtrak business customers.

  3. I looked at the availability last week with the reporter on the phone. From what I saw, there was plenty of availability in lower buckets up until the flights were nearly full. I really think the airlines didn’t even look at these markets when the Amtrak disaster happened. I think they just let the usual models do their job and as people booked, flights filled up.

  4. Shock and surprise here. I guess I simply did not know that the 121 carriers could (legally) change fares that quickly. That aside, I agree with CF that the short distance airfares in the NE corridor, where trains and even buses truly do compete, are miserably high. Most of those seats are in the short notice buckets and I’m sure that the carriers make a bundle. Heck, a trans-con flight of ~2300 miles is often less expensive than a 300 mile flight in the NE. This is simply one more reminder to ticket buying flyers that the fare and fees imposed upon your wallet have NOTHING to do with actual operating costs. Those fares have a lot to do with ‘just how much can we extract’ from pax, before they consider other carriers and/or alternate means. When ALL costs are considered, that 300 mile flight is significantly less expensive to operate than is the 2300 mile run. Cost and price are not relevant. The only number that really matters is the number of dollars that can be extracted per seat once the engines are turned on. As I’ve noted before, unlike some who think themselves in some terrible rush, I enjoy the luxury of time. For most trips of 1500 miles or less, I much prefer driving, and yes, even when the fuel, hotel, meal and other costs mount up over 2-3 days. My ride is clean and reliable. If I don’t lke the expected weather, I don’t go. I’ve never had a screaming, snot-nosed and diseased kid in my ride, nor an unwashed and nearly naked person pushing me to the edge of my tiny seat. If, for some unusual reason I simply must travel by air, a business class seat is the least that I will consider. No, I’m not a wealthy snob! I’m simply old enough to appreciate peace and quiet, low altitude food, reasonable sleep and the absence of Unpleasant Body Odors. There were days when I could not enjoy these simple graces. I thank God that they are now past, never to return. Frankly, one of life’s greatest pleasures turns out to be staying within ~500 miles of my home. The rest of the world? Been there, done that and with rare exceptions, seriously overblown.

    1. Unfortunately, many of my driving trips include ” screaming, snot-nosed and diseased kids” They are called family vacations.

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