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Airfare Hikes of 2016

Published by Rick Seaney on October 11, 2016

In 2015, airlines tried to raise ticket prices five times but that's nothing compared to this year. Hikes and hike attempts for 2016 are listed below.

LISTEN: Airfare expert Rick Seaney on why airlines hike (and why they quit hikes).

Aifare Hike – October 2016

PARTIAL SUCCESS: Nov. 8 – The airfare hike is now being declared a partial-success, partial-failure. Initially, the hike was declared a success until Southwest began rolling back hikes on some of its leisure fares while maintaining the new higher prices for business travel. The saga began Oct. 26, when American Airlines initiated the airfare hike by filing higher prices for nearly one million domestic prices. At the same time, Delta filed more than 100,00 price hikes and by Oct. 27, Southwest matched the hike followed by matching by United and Delta.

FAIL: Oct. 13 – Delta, which initiated the first hike of October, has now rolled back its prices; the hike has failed. Oct. 11 – Last night at 8 p.m. eastern time on, Delta Air Lines filed increases on about 1.6 million airfares, then raised an additional 962,000 fares at 10 a.m. this morning. Details of the hike are now being analyzed and will be updated shortly. As of 1 p.m. today, United began matching the hike, which ranges in price for $2 to $5 one-way. Oct. 12 The hike attempt continues with no clear resolution in sight. Yesterday evening, Alaska and Virgin American matched the hiking activity but this morning American filed for thousands of increases and decreases. Meanwhile, a number of Canadian trans-border hikes were filed yesterday afternoon by Air Canada, United and WestJet. Watch for more updates.

Airfare Hike – September 2016

FAIL: The FareCompare team has detected the 14th airfare hike for 2016, and the second increase of 2016 by United Airlines.  The $2-7 incremental cost for one-way flights filed by the airline can be seen across the majority of their routes, especially for flights out of their U.S. hubs, including San Francisco, Denver, Houston, Chicago and Newark.  Over the weekend, the increase did not stick, and most fares have been rolled back

  • September 21 – United Airlines initiates a systemwide fare increase, ranging from $2-7 . This includes fares for domestic and international flights across all classes of service.
  • September 22Delta and American Airlines appear to match the broad fare increase.
  • September 23 – As of 1 p.m. ET, the airfare hike seems to hold.
  • September 24 – Airlines begin to roll back most fare increases.  The airfare hike fails.

Airfare Hikes – June/July 2016

  • SUCCESS: July 27 – United initiates a small hike ($4-8 RT) which gains traction in August and is declared a success.
  • FAIL: July 11 – Delta initiates a small hike ($4-8 RT) but it does not succeed.
  • June 6 – JetBlue initiates a small hike ($4-8 RT) that it holds to though other carriers did not match.

Airfare Hike – May 2016

  • FAIL: May 26 – Delta's $4-14 RT hike fails
  • SUCCESS: May 11 – JetBlue succeeds with a $4-8 RT fair hike
  • FAIL: May 5 – Delta's $4-14 RT hike fails

Airfare Hike -March/April 2016

  • April 26 – Separate hike attempts are launched by a handful of different airlines for domestic routes as well as U.S./Canada flights, but most end in failure.
  • March 2 – An American-launched hike later joined by Delta and United, ends in failure.

Airfare Hikes – February 2016

  • February 19 – Southwest launches successful hike of $4-14 RT
  • February 17 – Delta launches hike that ends in failure.
  • February 10 – JetBlue launches another failed attempt.
  • February 3 – JetBlue launches hike that ends in failure.

Airfare Hike – January 2016

  • January 4 – Delta launches successful hike.

What the Hikes Mean and Who Will Pay

Who will pay: Most of the increased airfare will be borne by business travelers, those who procrastinate on shopping for airfare, people who live in smaller cities and/or less competitive markets.

The good news: Hikes were not detected on hotly-contested routes nor on some sale fares which typically target midweek flights.

Why are airlines raising fares: Airline investors expect carriers to squeeze as many nickels per square millimeter on aircraft as possible. At the moment, it appears the economic winds (plus steady demand for travel) are keeping those sails inflated, at least domestically.

2016 U.S. Airlines Airfare Hike Timeline

AttemptDateInitiating CarrierStatusRoun$Oil$/Barrel
1January 4DeltaFailed$4-14$37
2February 3JetBlueFailed$4-8$32
3February 10JetBlueFailed$4-8$28
4February 17DeltaFailed$4-8$31
5February 19SouthwestSuccess$4-14$30
6March 2AmericanFailed$4-8$35Incl Mex/Car
7April 26DeltaFailed $4-14$46Multiple attempts failed
8May 5DeltaFailed$4-14$49
9May 11JetBlueSuccess$4-8$50Small increases
10May 26DeltaFailed$4-14$49
 11 June 6JetBlue Failed $4-8$50
 12 July 11DeltaFailed$4-8$45
 13July 27UnitedSuccess $4-8$42
 14September 21UnitedFailed $4-14$44

For more details check out our Airfare Hike Section of the blog.

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