UPDATE: More matching activity today by Delta/Northwest, Continental, and US Airways.
EARLIER: The first U.S. domestic system-wide airfare hike of the year was just two weeks ago, with all major legacy airlines participating – along with “low cost” Southwest Airlines.
Then, yesterday at 12:30pm EDT – we began tracking a significant change in American Airlines domestic airfare pricing: increases of $10 and $20 roundtrip on a significant number of U.S. routes. Historically airfare hikes have been initiated on Thursday evenings, but neither this hike attempt nor the one we had just two weeks ago is following the historical pattern.
Not surprisingly, matching activity began yesterday evening at 8:00pm EDT – when United began to significantly match this hike across the bulk of its domestic route system.
Oddly enough, yesterday was also the day United filed a small number of fire sale airfares to Hawaii, with flights ranging from $250 to $275 roundtrip to Honolulu from legacy competitor hubs including Dallas, Houston, Newark, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake. Normally these tickets would be about three times as much.
But for the most part, the frenzied pace of domestic airfare sales has dried up recently.
I have been cautioning consumers for the past month that they procrastinate on purchasing airline tickets at their own risk – and these two airfare price hikes in the past few weeks is the strongest signal I have seen that the bottom is either here – or very near.