3 Links I Love: Horizon’s Pilot Problems, Irma Gouging Isn’t Real, Rescue Flight in San Juan

Delta, Fares, Horizon, Links I Love

This week’s featured link:
Pilots’ union sues Horizon Air over deferral of 6 jet deliveriesSeattle Times
These are interesting times up in the Pacific Northwest. Horizon, unsurprisingly, has a pilot shortage. At first it just impacted the Q400 flying which had to be scaled back. But now, presumably because of training issues, there aren’t enough pilots to fly the new Embraer 175 either. So, Alaska wants to have SkyWest flying some of Horizon’s 175s until Horizon (a wholly-owned subsidiary, mind you) can gets its act together. The Horizon pilots are angry, as you’d expect. It’s lawsuit time, and this thing is just going to get uglier.

Two for the road:
Are Airlines Price Gouging Ahead Of Hurricane Irma?One Mile at a Time
No, they aren’t. This article lacks a basic understanding of how airline pricing works. As airplanes fill up, that means prices get more expensive. Most of the time, you don’t see everything sold out several days in advance, but there’s been such a run on seats, that’s exactly what’s happening now. The few seats that are left are being sold at full fare. This would be the case regardless of whether there’s a hurricane or not. It would actually require the airlines to take steps to lower fares purposefully, as JetBlue has done, if they wanted to impact what was selling during the hurricane. This isn’t gouging; it’s just how the mechanics of airline pricing work.

Watch a Delta flight race Hurricane Irma into and out of Puerto RicoQuartz
This article is ridiculous. It’s basically just someone copying and pasting Jason Rabinowitz’s Twitter feed. Is it fun to watch Delta squeeze an airplane into San Juan as a hurricane gets close? Sure is, but you don’t need some to regurgitate Jason. Just follow him on Twitter for this kind of avgeekiness on a regular basis.

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20 comments on “3 Links I Love: Horizon’s Pilot Problems, Irma Gouging Isn’t Real, Rescue Flight in San Juan

  1. Not sure the 3 links I love the adequate title of this post considering your comments on the second and third articles !… :-)
    I think I preferred when you were pointing to real interesting articles, not just click-baits to point out to what they were ! If one clicks too fast without first reading your comment, It just helps them !

    1. Yeah – I agree….Especially the third article, how about UNlinking the title and push folks to Jason who really deserves the credit (& traffic)

    2. He is the CRANKY Flier afterall….

      But IMHO it is important when accusations like “Price Gouging” get tossed at airlines by amateurs with no understanding of airline pricing that journalists such as Cranky call them out accordingly. Doing so is much appreciated by those of us who also know how it works but do not seek or maintain the public voice that Cranky has.

      Thank you for your service Cranky.

  2. Is the normal, full Y fare on MIA-DEN really as high as $6785? I doubt that. That sounds like a different-than-usual fare they would have to manually intervene to create.

    1. Alex, UA’s Full Y base fare on this route is about $6,200. Add in taxes and fees and $6,700 sounds about right. The fare was last touched in April of this year, so nothing to do with the hurricane.

    2. Alex – Actually, that full Y fare of $6201 will never sell. It’s just a silly fare basis that is used primarily for settling up with other airlines (long story). The regular selling Y fare is going to be much less around $1150 or lower. So why was this so high? Well, I couldn’t replicate it myself and neither could the author of that post, so I can’t say for certain. But my guess is that since United doesn’t fly this route nonstop, that was combining a couple different local fares, maybe even with First Class on one leg (notice coach and First are the same price in that screenshot). It could also have been a glitch where there wasn’t even 1 seat to sell – could have just been a caching issue.

      Without being able to reproduce that, it’s hard to say for sure, but I can tell you that United didn’t increase selling fares. That information is publicly available and I’ve looked back to see if anything moved at the high end.

  3. Three good articles… in order

    AS is playing a risky game with Horizon even as it integrates Virgin America. They have their plates full and their brand image will suffer as labor issues, including at their regional carrier, lead to more operational disruptions for customers. Of course, AS also is negotiating labor contracts with its own pilots and has to integrate Virgin America’s so Horizon is quite a bit down the list – and all of them will require money that AS is trying not to spend in order to deliver the financial benefits which it promised for the merger.

    Airline revenue management (not pricing) does lead to higher prices for the last few passengers to book – but that is a bizarre concept for most other industries and people don’t understand it. Airlines simply have to take steps in cases like this to manually cap prices during “the exodus” to prevent being targeted no differently than retailers that sell bottled water for a 300% markup.

    The DL flight from SJU can’t really be called clickbait since it was picked up by multiple nationwide non-aviation news outlets. The media brings stories to the public’s attention that they might otherwise not know about and adds commentary necessary to make the story more than just a collection of facts. The vast majority of the public doesn’t look at flight tracking sites or an avgeek that picks up on unusual flight movements; the media is simply doing its job by bringing those stories to the public. For whatever reason, the story gained enormous coverage for DL. IIRC, DL operated the last flight out of MSY before Katrina and says it will operate as long as it can out of S. Florida while other carriers will wind down their operations earlier and restart later. DL seems to want to capitalize on its reliability; if they can do so by operating at airports that remain open and comply with all safety rules, more power to them.

    1. Tim – The problem with the article on the Delta flight to San Juan is that it added no value. Good reporting should add some value. This just copied and pasted links to a Twitter account and then recapped what was going on.

      1. The vast majority of Americans don’t look at some avgeeks twitter account. I wouldn’t have known anything about the flight if it weren’t for USAToday online.

        Media brings stories to the public that the public would not otherwise do. You do the same thing and people check in on this site because of it. Posting a link to LAWA’s project list or LUV’s schedule file wouldn’t make this site what it is. Your commentary is what makes the story. Same thing with the stories about the Delta flight. I’m not sure what percent of source material vs. commentary is necessary but Jason R. got a ton of coverage and so did DL not because they did what they do every day but because USAToday, WaPo etc found something that was worth tapping into. that is the media in action. .

        1. Tim – I’m fine with link aggregators. If someone wanted to link to the feed, great. But if a site is going to put together original content, there should be some sort of originality involved. This was just regurgitating and adding no value.

  4. “No, they aren’t”

    Yes, they are. “Normal” practice in a time of emergency can be abusive, something the airlines know quite well. They’re all waiving the “normal” practice of change fees, aren’t they?

    1. Quoting from Cranky’s commentary: “It would actually require the airlines to take steps to lower fares purposefully, as JetBlue has done, if they wanted to impact what was selling during the hurricane.”

      Point being is that the airlines did nothing special (good or bad) in terms of pricing for the hurricane. This is just their normal systems operating as usual… If you walked up to an airline counter in the airport a day or two before Thanksgiving or Christmas and bought a ticket for a flight the same day (or if you booked a business trip on very short notice during the same time), you’d probably pay the same prices, yet no one complains about airlines “gouging” for holiday travel or for last-minute reservations.

      In the case of the hurricanes, keep in mind that the other side of the journey (e.g., flights TO Florida right now) is going to be a nearly empty plane, plus the airlines have to reaccomodate people who were planning on flying to FL now but changed their plans because of the storm, so that’s a huge hit to airline revenue and a big bump to airline costs.

      Could the airlines make all fares $100 on routes to and from FL and GA? Yes, probably, but it would take some significant work to do so, and the impact on revenues probably wouldn’t be worth the PR benefit. The airlines are already getting hit hard on both sides of the ledge (costs and revenues) as it is, given how Irma and Harvey are messing up their networks. I don’t begrudge them for charging their normal fare structure, and I’d rather they focus on running as many flights out of the areas in the path of the storm as possible.

      1. Yes, I understand that it would require the airlines to do something for the emergency. The airlines did, in fact, do something for the emergency: they waived change fees. At the same moment, they could well have capped the fares out of Florida airports. *Not* doing so is making a deliberate choice to continuing to charge extortionate fares to people who are desperate, the very definition of gouging.

        “and the impact on revenues probably wouldn’t be worth the PR benefit”

        How about doing it because it’s the right thing to do?

        P.S. Please don’t do that Internet thing where you repeatedly explain a point someone is disagreeing with. I *understand* what CF’s point was. I was noting that his point was *wrong.*

    2. Total – It is a simple thing to waive a change fee. It is not simple to change all your fares. Change fees are simply a policy issue. They don’t change the fare rules. They just put out a blast waiver that agents can use to waive it. Fares, however, require a whole lot more. You have to get all the new fares together for every origin and destination from all Florida airports. (That’s a lot.) Then you have to file those fares with ATPCO which, at set times, sends them out and all the third party systems get the information and process it. The airlines all did eventually cap fares (except United), but it’s not as simple as you’d like it to be. In the meantime, flights filled up and fares got expensive.

      1. So:

        1. The airlines did eventually stop gouging passengers.

        2. A person’s life is measured in whether it’s easy or hard to change the computer code.

        Good to know.

  5. I was mad to see price gouging stories written by stupid people to rile the public. These are just full fares that are normal walk up fares that are the only seats left that the average traveler wouldn’t see 6 months ahead of time when they buy their ticket.

  6. Well, JETBLUE did lower fares and as you point out, the other airlines COULD HAVE lowered fares. They were just happy to stick it to evacuees. Stop defending the indefensible.

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