Now that it has been satisfactorily demonstrated that people will put up with just about anything, domestic airlines are jacking up fares -- over and above the recently announced $20 roundtrip surcharge for travel during the upcoming peak holiday seasons.
Airlines clearly figure that demand might soon exceed supply, with overall capacity down sharply (there are 21 percent fewer domestic seats flying this October than in October 2000, according to the airline schedule data firm OAG). Unclear is whether they're right about the demand, or whether a fair number of former passengers have abandoned or sharply cut back on air travel altogether, fed up as they are with the hassles.
As usual, the intrepid Rick Seaney at Farecompare.com is on the case.
Here's his report this afternoon:
"Airlines Hiking Domestic Airfares by up to $16 Roundtrip
"Yesterday our proprietary airfare processing system detected an unusually large number of domestic U.S. city pairs with an increase of up to $16 roundtrip -- a hike initiated by American Airlines.
"Continental and Southwest started matching late last night, and hours ago Delta/Northwest, United and US Airways began matching -- rounding out the legacy airlines.
"Most airfare-hike attempts occur late in the week, and either “stick” or “fizzle” over the weekend as carriers decide whether or not to match. It is unusual to see an airfare hike early in the week, which is typically reserved for discounting and sales.
"We contacted American Airlines about the airfare hike attempt and they confirmed the mileage based domestic airfare increase at the following levels:
0-450 miles $3ow/$6rt
451-750 miles $5ow/$10rt
751+ miles $8ow/$16r
"A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines further notes they have matched with at a lower level than the legacy airlines (with no increase on their cheapest “fun fares”):
0-450 miles $2ow/$4rt
451-750 miles $3ow/$6rt
751+ miles $5ow/$10rt
"This hike is layered on top a targeted peak holiday surcharge of $10 each way over the past two weeks and appears to be well on its way to “sticking” as the fourth increase of 2009 – all four occurring since June (compared to 15 total in 2008 and 17 in 2007)."