New Airfare Hikes Won't Affect Most Flyers

Even as Wall St. paints a grim picture of the economy, the airlines appear to be taking the opposite view by raising some airfares in the belief that travelers will pay these higher prices. Or at least, business travelers will, since that’s who the new hikes are aimed at.

US Airways began the latest round of hikes by increasing its one-way walk-up fares from $3 to $5 each-way, a hike that was quickly matched by United, Delta and Southwest. The cheaper increase is for shorter flights, while the $5 hike is applied to longer routes. In contrast, an airfare hike attempt in July raised prices $20 round-trip.

Read about the Airfare Hikes of 2011

Which Passengers Will Pay Higher Airfare Prices

For the most part, these hikes will not affect leisure travelers, who typically buy airline tickets at least two weeks in advance. Instead, it’s aimed at the business traveler who pays top dollar for last minute airfare anyway; in fact, these travelers pay such high prices that a hike this small will not cause much pain. The same might be said for those travelers who have to fly due to last minute emergencies; yes, their walk-up fares will now cost more, but it’s a pittance compared to the overall round-trip price.

Read How to Avoid Paying $1,000 for a Last Minute Emergency Flight

Airfare Hike Analysis

What I find especially interesting is that the airlines feel comfortable enough to hike business fares, despite the fact that this hike sort of defies where the economy is. Plus, we are now entering the softer (meaning, cheaper) fall season for air travel, and even a casual perusal of our Deals Blog shows numerous airline sales.

On the other hand, there have been 14 previous airfare hike attempts this year, and most of them have been successful, and I would not be surprised to see more attempts before the year ends. In the meantime, we keep right on buying airline tickets but I have noticed that shoppers are becoming more and more sophisticated, searching out cheap flights whenever possible. As it should be.

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Published: September 9, 2011