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Forget About a Decently Priced Holiday Airline Ticket?

October 31, 2008 | Posted in: Airfare News,Airline News | 4 comments

Our friends at SkyTalk and AirlineBiz note today that J.P. Morgan is “throwing water” on an announcement we made that leisure travelers have gotten a break this week from sky high ticket prices around the holidays.

Their research note entitled “Holiday Prices Move Higher” and cites:

  • AirTran raised its 7 day advance purchase fares by $5-$15 one-way … widely matched by competitors — equating leisure travelers who had been getting quotes in the $400-$600 roundtrip range for holiday travel in the past month; who are now getting quotes for $200-$400 roundtrip for those same trips — with procrastinators and business travelers who buy 7 day advance purchase airfare on AirTran routes (and it’s competitors) has me scratching my head.

    I pulled the data from our historical database on AirTran’s Atlanta hub for longer trips (1200 miles or more roundtrip — about 25 destination cities with filed airfare) and put together a sheet with the daily average cheapest 7 day advance price for the month of October 2007 and 2008.

    The data doesn’t support the premise that AirTran 7 day advance prices are higher (for the holidays) as cited, rather the contrary. October 2008 is highly volatile and overall lower for 7 day advance fares compared to the same month last year — 10 days in October 2008 were over 40 percent lower than 2007 (airfare sales) — AirTran is notorious for weekly quick in and out “airfare specials” (as clearly evident in the graphic below).

    Also shown is an example of AirTran out-the-door ticket prices for a 7 night non-stop roundtrip departing each day in November from Atlanta to Detroit — looks like a pretty good deal to me for Thanksgiving travel (8-Nov-2008 is the 7 day advance purchase price breakpoint; Northwest and Delta have similar pricing in the month for their non-stops).

  • You’ll be paying for that suitcase – yes airline fees both new and increased add a wrinkle to the total cost of a trip this year (and likely for many years to come). Consumers should be very aware of these non-ticket charges and prepare accordingly.
  • Sales not earlier this year – I checked our historical databases each year from 2004 on and “JOY” Northwest fares did not become the cheapest in the marketplace on until Mid-November mainly because Northwest files a ton of very cheap “K” fares (I call them “Crazy Ivan” fares) that are typically super cheap, good only on Tue/Wed and only blacked out on peak holiday travel days — leaving other off-peak days around the holiday cheaper (with limited inventory).
  • Holiday Prices Broadly Higher – we have documented in excruciating detail the run up of 21 attempted airfare hikes this year and the minimalistic pull back in fuel surcharges since oil has dropped in the last 3 months (by over $80 dollars a barrel!).

    The disproportionate amount of higher prices this year are being levied on business travelers via a combination of higher fuel surcharges and onerous minimum stay requirements. Small cities with little competition are also bearing the brunt of hefty increases because there is less competition to drive down system wide airfare hikes.

    This holiday season is about getting a “better bad deal” - the holiday airfare sale we highlighted is “significant” — to be honest I was worried in early July that airlines would not file holiday sales after announcing unprecedented seat cutbacks (see the scope of the domestic holiday travel price breaks in this graph using our proprietary software). Recent trends in international ticket prices are also down — highlighting both seasonal and economic softness. These down trends provide a welcome respite from this year’s march to ever higher ticket prices — air travelers actually have a much better shot at visiting family and friends over the holidays today than they did just a few short weeks ago.

Our release (portions of which were used by AP in its article that evidently caused this stir) simply noted the “largest volume of sale activity of the year” — a pleasant surprise. It was not an analysis of price trends in 2008 which have been covered in several other articles as recently as the end of September — where we noted that airfares where up from 20 to 40 percent (metros vs. small cities).

Nonetheless, it isn’t just me that is seemingly “out of touch” with holiday prices – take our friends at Farecast who have excellent airfare technology:

Forget About a Decently Priced Holiday Airline Ticket?

Midwest – Making Money v. Irate Passenger

October 31, 2008 | Posted in: Airline News,Ask Rick | 0 comments

Saw this witty and articulate complaint letter on the always informative UpgradeTravelBetter site, and it’s worth a look.

Bottom line: a long time customer of Midwest Airlines – a businessman who spends a fair amount of money on the carrier – is upset that Midwest wanted to charge him an extra $50 to sit in the comfortable seats that he says used to be standard throughout the aircraft for free.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

“This new policy is not exactly a rousing success. On my flight to Washington, there were 9 people in the “Signature Seating” section. On my return, exactly 3 people. The back sections of both flights were full. The difference was so obvious that I’m surprised that, while you were refitting the 717s, you didn’t add a tail-wheel to address the potential load imbalance.” -Irate Midwest passenger

Best part? The letter writer’s priceless description of why Midwest is like having “chunks in your beer”. Do read the letter in its entirety.

“No Visa” Requirement Could Bring More International Tourists to U.S.

October 31, 2008 | Posted in: Airline News,News,Travel Tips | 1 comment

This could be a boon to the airlines – and the U.S. economy in general.

According the Los Angeles Times, the federal government plans to add South Korea, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia to its list of places where visas are not required to visit the U.S. This move could go into effect next month.

The Times says the arduous procedure of getting a visa has kept people away. Which is a pity, since tourism officials say the international visitors stay longer and spend more – about $4,000 compared to the $557 per trip spend by domestic travelers.

Already, South Korea’s Asiana Airlines says it will reinstate direct flights between Seoul and Los Angeles by the end of this year (after a 17-year hiatus) and Korean Air said it would also increase flights to Los Angeles next year.

More Details on Delta/Northwest Integration (What About Bag Fees?)

October 31, 2008 | Posted in: Airline News,Delta,Northwest | 0 comments

We already know the Delta/Northwest merger will create the world’s biggest airline, and that soon the new entity will be known simply as “Delta” – but, what else?

Well, the hubs will all remain, but flights will not be cut and frequent flier miles will remain the same – according to Delta exec Ed Bastian (via the AP),

But bag fees? As my readers know (and anyone who’s seen my Domestic Airline Fee Chart), Northwest charges for a first checked-bag ($15) while Delta does not (though it does charge a whopping $50 for a second checked-bag).

The exec did not rule out the possibility of Delta adding a first checked-bag fee – and I’m not surprised – those fees make real money. But it may take awhile – said Delta’s Bastian, “It’s probably going to take us two years before we can really operate as a single carrier.”

DOT Stats: Cheapest, Most Expensive Airports

October 30, 2008 | Posted in: Uncategorized | 2 comments

Sorry, Cincinnati – but according to the Dept. of Transportation’s latest statistics, you were the most expensive airport to fly in or out of – based on second-quarter average fares.

The number-crunchers at the BTS looked at the top 100 airports, and found the highest fares at: Cincinnati, Ohio, followed by Greenville/Spartanburg, SC; Knoxville, TN; Madison, WI; and Grand Rapids, MI.

The lowest fares: Burbank, CA; Houston Hobby; Chicago Midway; Oakland, CA – and the lowest of all – Dallas’ Love Field, the home of Southwest. No surprise there.

Also noted in the BTS Press Release: Atlantic City, NJ, was not included in this report because of the discovery of “incorrect data” in a July report (Spirit Airlines misreported). I remember that report – and I made my concerns about that data known to DOT folks – when I wrote the following:

“This nonsense about Atlantic City being the cheapest city95+% of all traffic to/from Atlantic City is on Spirit Airlines which specializes in $9 fares and only has service from Tampa, Ft. Myers, Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm and Myrtle Beach – hardly a representative sample for the cheapest city claim.” –Rick Seaney, FareCompare.com

I’ll be processing the raw data that generated these BTS stats over the weekend, to compare it with our history. And I’ll let you know what I find out.

Insider Look at the 2008 Holiday Mega Airfare Sale

October 30, 2008 | Posted in: Airfare News,Airline News | 0 comments

Using our lab only (for now) Best Time to Buy technology, we crunched the numbers on the mega holiday airfare sale mentioned earlier. The chart above (and below) shows American and Northwest (now Delta) average cheapest ticket prices for travel departing each week fo the next 7 months. The red line denotes the prices on these routes from Monday noon and the blue line from last night at 8pm (after the sale and matching of airlines).

  • Notice the steep drop in average prices for travel before Valentine’s Day and specifically on Thanksgiving and Christmas

  • A 10% or more average decrease translates into savings of $100 or more per person (unfortunately, some cities aren’t on sale)

  • Between 50 cities, there are more than 1,200 city-pairs, and we check almost 10,000 airfares per airline per week!

Procrastinators are getting a break — so don’t wait too long to check out prices and don’t forget to compare airline fees for the total cost of your trip!

 

Prediction: Airlines Will Boast About Their January Flying Statistics

October 30, 2008 | Posted in: Delays,Flight Attendants,Forecast | 0 comments

The core service of all airlines is moving people from Point A to Point B – and that means, on-time and with their bags.

My prediction: watch for the domestic airlines to crow about the statistical strides they’ve made in both areas, come January.

Why?

With passengers paying up to $130 roundtrip for 2 checked-bags, and, over 200,000 fewer seats daily (that’s approximately 2,000 less flights), that means fewer checked-bags to mishandle and fewer issues with delays and cancellations (always assuming that that wild card, Mother Nature, doesn’t get out of hand too badly).

I don’t think the flight attendants will be doing much crowing during this upcoming holiday travel season, and I do feel for them – they will have to deal with tons of surly consumers getting on planes with what is sure to be the largest amount of carry-on baggage in the history of domestic aviation…

Delta/Northwest Merger Now Official – So What Does That Mean to You?

October 30, 2008 | Posted in: Airline News,Delta,Northwest | 0 comments

Here are the immediate effects of that $2.6 billion Delta/Northwest merger and how it is going to affect you right now: [blank space]. Get it?

In other words, it’s not going to affect you – not at the moment, anyway. It’s going to take as long as two years for the two carriers to completely merge into the world’s largest airline. In the meantime, Delta and Northwest will be operating as two separate airlines. But eventually, when fully integrated, the merged airlines will be known simply as “Delta”.

And as the Delta people say, for now “it’s business as usual” – which means, if you’ve booked on one airline’s site, continue to go to that site if you want to check the flight or make changes or whatever you might normally do.

And yes, your frequent flier miles are perfectly safe. Changes are coming – but slowly.

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