UPDATE: Oct. 27, 2011 The 18th broad-based domestic airfare hike has collapsed, as all the major legacy carriers began rolling back prices late last night and throughout today.
Oct. 26, 2011 11 a.m. CDT: Chaotic airfare filing appears to be dooming the most recent domestic airfare hike attempt, the 18th broad-based attempt of the year.
On late Monday, legacy airlines had raised airfares from $4 to $10 round-trip based on route distance and it appeared until late Tuesday that the increase attempt might stick, even without the participation of Southwest/AirTran and JetBlue.
Airline ‘Rollback Chaos’
While domestic airlines were in the middle of hiking airfares system-wide, there appeared to be some disagreement between the carriers as to whether or not they should hike a variety of non-holiday winter travel sales that are currently in the system. As it turned out, some airlines raised those prices while others did not, causing a certain amount of rollback chaos.
On top of this issue, late Tuesday evening US Airways began to rollback its hike on routes under 500 miles one-way, and this morning, Southwest appeared to have instituted a mileage-based minimum price strategy of $129 each way for one-way routes greater than 1,500 miles and $149 for those greater than 2,000 miles, making it even more difficult for other airlines to match.
Listen to what these hikes can mean for procrastinating airfare shoppers:
What This Means for Holiday Travelers
In general, domestic airlines have no choice but to match each other because consumers compare prices and any airline $1 more than the competition ends up on Page 20 of comparison results.
After watching hundreds of airfare hike attempts in the past decade, I have never seen one stick that has this much post-initial matching chaos without low cost airline support, so I would not be surprised to see this one completely falter later today.
Consumers watching these back-to-back hikes may have been wondering whether airline tickets were going to get so high as to be out of reach, but take heart: airlines still have to fill up the last third of their domestic aircraft with cost conscious passengers.