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Airlines Raise Prices, Again

SmarterTravel

Your next flight just got a little more expensive. Another industry-wide fare hike has taken hold. It started slowly when JetBlue initiated a $10 round-trip increase in ticket prices on Sunday. By the end of this week, reports USA Today, Southwest, American, Delta, United, and US Airways had followed suit.

This is the second successful fare hike established this year. A similar price jump happened last month, when Delta kicked off a fare hike of $20 round-trip and every major carrier followed suit.

What’s the excuse this time? The airlines are blaming fuel costs (as usual). A Southwest spokesperson told USA Today, “We have increased fares to cover operating costs, including the high price of jet fuel. Southwest is known as the low-fare carrier, and we don’t nickel-and-dime our customers by charging fees for things like checked bags and changes.”

Unlike Southwest, we do consider these fare hikes nickel-and-diming. Now that two of the hikes have stuck, 2012 ticket prices have jumped by a total $30 round-trip already—that’s a lot to tack onto a domestic flight.

But fuel prices are indeed up this month. The Associated Press reports that jet fuel is 12.1 percent more expensive than it was a year ago, and prices have risen by 8.5 percent so far this year. Jet fuel makes up about a third of airlines’ operating costs, says the AP.

The airlines are eager to pass the costs of rising fuel prices on to flyers, and if crude oil rates keep rising, more fare hikes are likely to materialize. In 2011, the airlines tried to raise fares a whopping 22 times, but were only successful on nine occasions.

It looks like the airlines are getting away with industry-wide price increases yet again. But could passengers be to blame? FareCompare.com puts it bluntly: “It will be up to passengers to tell the carriers exactly when the price of a middle seat on a packed plane has finally stepped over the line.” As long as the airlines can hike fares without worrying about losing customers, there’s no reason for them to stop.

So are the airlines being greedy—or is this just business as usual?

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