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Domestic Airfare Hike #7: FAIL (but don’t start celebrating yet)

March 11, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News,Pricing Activity | 0 comments

Domestic Airfare Hike 7 Fail

AmericanAirline’s attempted $10 roundtrip domestic airfare hike launched earlier this week was followed by an entire day of inactivity from legacy and low cost domestic airlines – meaning, they decided not to match the hike. So, moments ago, American rolled back the hike to maintain competitive equilibrium.

Does this mean consumers have hit their saturation point on higher ticket prices?

It is too early to tell. Just FYI, in 2008 we also saw a handful of unsuccessful hikes during weekly attempts in March and April of that year.

Rather than a statement on consumer demand waning, this aborted increase attempt could just as easily mean that domestic airlines want more time to evaluate bookings before jumping back in on the hike band wagon

I fully expect another domestic hike attempt next week, as carriers continue to probe the appetites of travelers (and that of their competition) to lift the price of airline tickets.

Learn more about FareCompare and the cheapest days to fly and best times to buy airline tickets for year-round savings.

More Flights to Cuba from U.S. Airports

More Flights to Cuba from U.S. Airports

Exactly two years ago to this very day  - back on March 11, 2009 – I wrote a column for ABCNews.com called The Next Vacation Hot Spot: Cuba?” Now, it seems, that reality may be just around the corner.

We’ve received word that the United States Customs and Border Protection has now authorized more airports to offer passenger air service to and from Cuba via charter flights.

New York’s John F. Kennedy and Miami International are currently the only ones offering this service, and at the moment, charters are limited to travel for Cuban-Americans visiting relatives, for journalists and for those making authorized religious or educational trips.

But I imagine it won’t be long before we’ll see Cuba opening up to regular tourists like you and me. And why not?

A lot of us are ready for adventure: according to the latest government data, 30% of us have passports (and it would be great if more of us got them) – so why not use them for travel to an international destination in our own backyard that’s both accessible and affordable, especially compared to other popular Caribbean vacation spots? Anyway, it is great to see one of the last remaining icebergs from the Cold War – the ban on travel to Cuba – slowly but surely thawing.

And yes, I can hear all you cigar aficionados out there saying, gracias!

For the record, airports now authorized for charters to Cuba include the following (in no particular order):

  • Pittsburgh International Airport
  • Miami International
  • New York’s John F. Kennedy
  • Los Angeles International
  • Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International
  • Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International
  • Baltimore/Washington International
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International
  • New Orleans Louis Armstrong International
  • Chicago’s O’Hare International
  • Tampa International Airport
  • Puerto Rico’s San Juan Louis Munoz Marin International

Domestic Airfare Hike #7 Underway – Deja Vu Time Again

March 10, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News,Pricing Activity | 0 comments

Domestic Airfare Hike #7 Underway

The calendar may say March, but it sure feels like Groundhog Day.

Make that, Groundhog week. On Thurday evening (March 9), American Airlines filed a $10 roundtrip domestic airfare hike; the 7th airfare hike attempt of 2011.  And neither Canada nor Hawaii was spared as prices were lifted by $21 roundtrip on those routes.

Eerily, 2011 is tracking in lockstep with the first nine weeks of 2008 – take a look at the figures, “then and now”:

  • March 9, 2008 – Oil hits $105/barrel
  • March 9, 2011 – Oil hits $104/barrel

Another “then and now”:

  • As of March 7, 2008 – 7 domestic airfare hike attempts (5 successful)
  • As of March 9, 2011 – 7 domestic airfare hike attempts (6 successful)

If history continues to repeat itself, we should see weekly hike attempts of at least $10 roundtrip through the end of April – just as we did in 2008 (note: oil hit $115/barrel in April ’08).

As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

I expect the legacy airlines to continue such hike attempts on a weekly basis, and to see “hike matching” as a tight knit group (save the rare resistance of US Airways); I also expect these airlines to watch intently to see if their low cost carrier brethren hop on board. If that doesn’t happen, the legacies will have no choice but to rollback their airfare hikes or tiptoe around the low cost carrier routes to maintain competitive equilibrium.

Taking into account summer travel surcharges, our internal index of average cheapest domestic roundtrip prices between the top 50 U.S. cities is nearly at the same levels we saw peak in June of 2008.

The $10,000,000 question: When will consumers begin to push back – if at all?

Today, as legacy airlines continue to pull the seat capacity-cutting rip cord, it is pretty clear that the pushback has not yet started – not just yet.

We’ll update as any matching or rollback activity unfolds over the next few days.

When is the Best Time to Buy Summer 2011 Airline Tickets?

March 8, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News,Fuel Watch,Pricing Activity | 0 comments

Best Time to Buy Summer Airfare

A bit long, but well worth your time — Rick

Oil prices are getting ridiculous again. That means airlines are pulling the parachute rip cord and sailing off to the Land of High Prices (there have been six airfare hikes since January). Oh, and don’t look for any empty middle seats, either – the airlines have perfected the art of capacity cuts.

So, expect sky high airline ticket prices this summer. Prudent passengers are already getting some airfare quotes and I suspect most are not liking what they’re finding – and that’s because airlines are expecting strong summer demand – so why should they discount.

So, the 10 million dollar question is: When should I lock in my summer air travel plans?

Let me see if I can help shed some light.

Right now is a bit too earlier to lock in for airfare for June or July travel. This is because the airlines are still concentrating their activity on April and May departures and haven’t quite gotten around to probing the appetite of early bird shoppers with decent summer deals. I would (and I will) plan on shopping in earnest for those trips in the latter part of March. However, do sign up for the FareCompare Airfare Alerts now, just in case they pull a “Crazy Ivan” on you (feel free to look it up on UrbanDictionary.com).

That said, you should be shopping in earnest now for April/May departures as the short term prospects of fuel prices dipping aren’t looking promising.  I am not suggesting you become a day trader on the oil futures exchange, but it might not hurt to remember what you paid this week for a tank of gas.

When is the Best Time to Buy Summer 2011 Airline Tickets?

Here’s your answer:

  • Start shopping later this month
  • Do not procrastinate by waiting until May

This year, we’ll see the early bird getting the “better bad deal”; the really great deals, unfortunately, will be few and far between.

Why should you listen to my musings on this topic?  At FareCompare we have the luxury of sitting on top of the world’s largest database of current and historical airfare information and get to watch airline ticket pricing machinations for over 500 airlines in real-time, 24/7. Our sole goal when we hit the door each morning is to work on technology to find deals and help you make a better buying decision. That is who we are and that is what we do.

Let me toss out a few tips that will help you save some money on your summer vacations:

  1. Sign up for FareCompare Airfare Alerts: Our real-time alerts are the best way to keep track of what is happening on your favorite route
  2. Consider a connecting flight: As painful as that may sound, nonstops are now garnering a $100+ premium
  3. The best time to shop for airfare is Tuesday at 3pm EST:  Shop Tuesday throuth Thursday. Do deals ever occur on the weekends? Yes; and someone usually wins the lottery, too
  4. Fly the Cheapest Days: These are typically Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday; if you can’t fly any of these days for both departure and return, at least schedule one of your flights on these days to realize some savings
  5. Split Up Your Family’s Ticket Purchase: When shopping for multiple tickets, airline reservation systems bump everyone up to the next higher price level, if there are not enough seats available to fulfill your entire order. By purchasing one-at-a-time, at least some in your party will snag the cheapest available seats

Final note of caution: Back in the summer of 2008, oil prices hit $145 per barrel and Goldman Sachs came out with a report saying oil was likely to hit $200/barrel. That prompted many to lock in Thanksgiving and Christmas flights; instead oil crashed to $50 per barrel and procrastinators were rewarded with much cheaper seats.

Could this happen again? The honest answer is, no one knows. For now, though, my advice is: be prudent, shop early and you’ll definitely be able to score a deal (even if it is the best of some bad ones).

Domestic Airlines Test 6th Airfare Hike of the Year

March 3, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News,Pricing Activity | 0 comments

Domestic Airlines Test 6th Airfare Hike of the Year

Here we go again. American Airlines initiated yet another airfare hike this past Monday of $10 roundtrip; apparently the airline was not deterred by the fact that last week’s  $20 airfare hike was ultimately cut in half.  

Meanwhile, Delta matched this latest hike Wednesday morning but upped the stakes by making it a laddered hike of $10, $14 and $20 roundtrip, depending on the route.

And it wasn’t long before United/Continental and US Airways matched the initial $10 roundtrip airfare hike as well.

What does this mean? Well, it’s pretty clear that demand hasn’t softened – at least, not enough to prevent airlines from testing new highs for base domestic ticket prices.

To recap: For those of you keeping score: this is the sixth airfare hike attempt in 2011 – so far, with no matching from low cost airlines. Here is the 2011 Timeline:

  • Jan. 9 – $4 – $10 roundtrip
  • Jan. 17 – $10 roundtrip
  • Feb. 1 – $4 – $10 roundtrip
  • Feb. 18 – $10 roundtrip
  • Feb. 24 – $10 roundtrip (initially $20 roundtrip)
  • Feb. 28 – $10 roundtrip

Find Deals Now: You’ll always find the best deals available at FareCompare.com; see our latest Deals Roundup which includes specials from Southwest, JetBlue, Virgin America and more.

Airfare Price Hikes: Could 2011 Break a Record?

February 25, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News,Multimedia | 0 comments

Airfare Price Hikes - Could 2011 Break a Record

Did you know we’ve already had five airfare hikes so far this year? That’s more than we had in 2010 (four) and more than in 2009 (three).

Yes, you can still save on airfare – but be prepared to be more flexible than ever. That means the following:

  • Sign up for FareCompare Airfare Alerts and be prepared to fly when you get a good deal
  • Fly during the week – it’ll be lots cheaper than flying on Friday or Sunday  

See me explain more about what’s going on in this Associated Press video report on rising oil prices.

To Fly or Not to Fly – Good Deals and Bad Deals

February 24, 2011 | Posted in: Deals,Destinations,Multimedia,Security | 0 comments

To Fly or Not to Fly - Good Deals and Bad Deals

Ever wonder if certain places are safe to fly to?

Maybe a destination you’d normally never consider, but what if you see a super good deal – what then?

That was the topic of my weekly column for ABCNews.com yesterday – called, “To Fly or Not to Fly” and I’ve got lots of advice on the subject.

I also talked about the issue of cheap flights vs. security on Good Morning Texas today, plus I examined some specific airfare deals and pronounced them “good deals” or “bad deals”. It was fun – take a look:

Another Airfare Hike – Summer Vacation Travelers Take Note!

February 24, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News,Deals,Pricing Activity | 0 comments

Another Airfare Hike - Summer Vacation Travelers Take Note!

When it rains, it pours…and by that I mean, more domestic airfare hikes.

Yesterday afternoon (Thursday, Feb. 23), United/Continental filed a $20 roundtrip fuel surcharge on the bulk of this merging airline’s domestic route system.

Later in the evening, American Airlines matched this by raising their base fares by a similar amount. This is the fifth broad-based hike attempt of 2011; the previous four met with various levels of succcess.

Bottom line: It’s going to be a little harder to find airfare deals this summer, but whenever there are any – we at FareCompare will have them. So do yourself a favor and sign up for our airfare alerts right now. You will be glad you did.

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