[Edit: This post has been updated with a clarification from United that they did indeed add six flights out of Florida and capped ticket prices on those flights at $399.}
Yesterday I posted about the claims that airlines were price gouging ahead of Hurricane Irma, which is projected to make landfall in Florida this weekend. Someone on Twitter posted a screenshot where United was supposedly charging as much as $6,000 for a round-trip flight between Miami and Denver. I was never able to corroborate that claim, but I certainly saw many instances of $1,500 one-way tickets. There were arguments on both sides as to whether this was ethical or not.
I guess I see both sides. On one hand, it seems unfair that only those with deep pockets should be able to fly out of harm’s way. And it doesn’t necessarily feel right for companies to make a lot of money off of someone’s misfortune, though of course that happens every day in lots of fields. But obviously there aren’t anywhere near enough seats to offer one to everyone. So how should they be allocated? The free market thinkers say that prices should be allowed to go where they may, and that will encourage other players to shift resources into the market, knowing they can make a few bucks.
The argument holds that without the allure of untold riches, nobody will offer a helping hand. That the only thing that motivates anyone to do pretty much anything is money. Otherwise we’d all just sit on our couches and watch the opening of the NFL season this weekend. Or something like that.
JetBlue decided to buck that trend. They announced yesterday that they would sell their remaining seats on flights out of Florida for $99, or $159 for those with a connection. I called it the right thing.
To be sure, I don’t think for a minute that they did this solely out of the goodness of their hearts. I think they weighed all the factors, and decided that the perception of doing good for people in need was worth more than the revenue they would receive in higher fares.
There’s nothing wrong with that of course.
Well, it turns out that other airlines have followed suit.
More airlines capping fares ahead of Hurricane Irma
American has announced that they will sell “main Cabin seats on direct, single leg flights out of Florida” for $99. There is a ticket by September 10 and fly by September 13 restriction.
I decided to test that by looking at the Miami to Charlotte route. Using Google Flights, you can clearly see that, when seats are available, they are $99 through September 13.
For their part, Delta also announced that they would cap fares at $399 and switch to larger planes to help people evacuate. These flights will depart from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Key West.
I did a search to Detroit, well out of harm’s way. Indeed, the highest fare over those dates was $399.
Not to be left out, United posted… a weather waiver. So I was curious to look at some United fares to see if they had adjusted their pricing. You tell me.
[Edit: United has reached out to clarify that they did add six additional flights yesterday and today, and capped fares for those flights at $399.]
It’s certainly interesting to see how the airlines have reacted to charges of price gouging as people try to flee south Florida.
Delta and American have mostly joined JetBlue in setting a cap on their fares, and in some places, adding capacity. Apparently so has United, albeit their smaller presence in Florida makes it perhaps less visible.
At any rate, I’m glad to see that some of the airlines have recognized the benefits of goodwill — which are often very hard to quantify — and done what many will consider to be the right thing.
No, it won’t have any measurable impact in terms of helping the masses flee Florida, but for those able to secure one of the additional seats that have been added, it will be appreciated.
What do you make of Delta and American capping fares out of Florida?