It pains me to write this, but it’s true. I’ve been monitoring the price of airfare pretty closely for over five years now, and I’ve never seen airfare as consistently expensive as it is now. Sure, there are some deals out there, but on the whole, I’m not only seeing the fewest low “base fares” I’ve seen in years, but the inventory in the low fare buckets isn’t there either.
For those of you not familiar with airline pricing, there are two components to the price of a ticket. Airlines publish fare basises (that’s not a word, is it?) between city pairs, which are typically primarily restricted by their fare bucket requirement, advance purchase requirement, etc. For example, at United, “L” fares are among the lowest, so a base fare could be L_14__, filling in the blanks with (seemingly random) letters. The “L” is the fare bucket required, and the 14 is the advance purchase requirement, in days. So I’ve been noticing lately that the base fares have been among the highest I’ve ever seen. Historically, it was pretty normal to see a base fare of around $203 from Tampa to the west coast, while most now are hovering around $280 or so.
The other component to being able to price a fare is that the actual fare bucket is available. Airlines typically have 15-20 fare codes they use as a form of inventory/revenue management, so they might only release higher fare codes when the flight is getting full, when they anticipate higher demand, etc. So not only have the base fares gone up (as described above), but the low fare buckets don’t seem to be available.
And while I’m on this tangent, I get emails all the time asking something along the lines of “I’m trying to book a ticket from Chicago to San Francisco, and United is four times as expensive as American. Why?” Hopefully the above sheds some light on that. Typically airlines match each other on the actual base fares, though they might not actually release space in the low fare buckets, which is the other component required to price a ticket.
While the high fares make it tough to mileage run, kudos to the airlines, I suppose. I guess the industry consolidation we’ve seen over the past few years has been good for something.