Anomolously high airfares

I’ve been looking to buy a plane ticket to my mom’s house (Cleveland) this March, and the price is coming up as $600 round-trip. Now, last year, that same flight was in the $300 range, and even over Christmas time, it was less than $550. I don’t see any reason why the week before St. Patrick’s day would be a busy travel time, so I’m wondering if there’s some reason that airfares would be unusually high right now, and more importantly, if I can expect them to go down any time in the next month. If it matters, the airline in question is Northwest, and no, there aren’t any other choices of airline available.

Does anyone have a clue?

March is spring break time for college students. Cleveland is not the #1 spring break destination, but I suppose return trips still count for the airlines’ pricing decisions. Also, these recent airline mergers haven’t resulted in many bargains for consumers.

A semi-WAG, but if there are no other airlines available (I assume you mean on a direct flight) Northwest might be jacking up the prices artificially high. <shrug> It happens sometimes. The up side, if this is the case, is that if the flight isn’t full in the weeks heading up to St. Patrick’s Day that price will fall dramatically.

My “contact” in the travel biz says airline prices aren’t particularly high at present. Your high price is likely due to bum luck and lack of competition.

The airlines are heavily affected by the recent global price increases for petroleum (the reasons are a different subject). Fuel can be a third of a major airline’s total operating costs, for instance.

The fare problem is always compounded in monopoly markets, such as the one you describe, including “fortress hubs” with nearly no effective competition. An aggravating factor since last year is the presence of a Republican administration, which cannot be expected to vigorously enforce antitrust laws - notice the AA/TW merger announcement, the UA/US acquisition, and the DL/CO merger talks, and they won’t be the last.

In NW’s case, they had an antitrust proceeding before the Justice Department last year regarding their control of CO (NW still retains veto power over a CO sale), which has since been settled. They now may feel more freedom to charge gouge fares in their monopoly markets than before the settlement. NW also needs to improve their books if they’re going to keep their place on the food chain after the next round of consolidation. Speculation of course.

So how long a drive DO you have to an airport with competitive service? Enough to be worthwhile?

Fares are not high across the board. It’s just they got you by the 'nads. At least, right now.

Duke has it right. Log onto NW every 4-5 days looking for a flight. There will come a cheep one with patience. I see it all the time.

Of course, it would help if you didn’t go to school in bumf***, oh!, sorry. And going to Cleveland ain’t exactly the best thing in the world. Ask a guy who lives in Akron! :slight_smile:

I’m aware of the bad market, what with there being only one airline available going east, but that was true last year, too. I’m mostly looking for things that might have changed since then. My mom thought it might be related to oil prices, but shouldn’t demand for the different sorts of petroleum distillates be more or less independent? It’s not like airplanes burn the same stuff as cars. I’d also thought of spring break (which also, as it happens, is responsible for my decision to travel at that time), but Bozeman? Cleveland? Can’t they just increase the fares to Cancun and Fort Lauderdale, and leave a guy who just wants to visit his family alone?

The monopoly business might have something to it, though… If that’s the case, then the prognosis isn’t too good, is it?

FWIW, I work (in the East) with a contract worker who actually lives near Bozeman. He routinely drives to Spokane for trips just to avoid NW fares.

If the petroleum price situation is really due to OPEC production cutbacks, as BigOilCo tells us, that would be reflected in everything from gasoline to jet fuel (kerosene) to plastic feedstocks. Maybe somebody closer to the situation has some actual price data.

You’ve undoubtedly noticed how much more you’re paying for gasoline now than a year before. I heard a few days on the radio that Exxon Mobil reported a world record for profits last year - US$16 billion. The previous record was US$10 billion. Coincidence?

I fly a lot, and frequently fly Northwest. One of my frequent destinations (Alpena, MI), is only served by NW. I have found some really good prices on this site. The best I could do with NW or a couple of discount travel agents I use was $470 for a flight in less than two weeks. I just got the ticket here for $299.00 total.

Not an answer to the OP, I know, but it might be useful to someone!

Demand (spring break) is one factor, but there is also an increase in consumable income. Many potential travelers are getting their tax refund checks within the next couple of months and the airlines have factored that in. Your best bet is to wait it out.

Well, again, if the seats aren’t filled in the weeks running up to your travel date, the prices will fall fast. Even monopolies hate flying empty.

I know this isn’t “the American way,” but have you thought of flying into, say, Chicago, and taking a train? I know, I know, I’ve been living in England for too long.

Can you get a connecting flight through Chicago? That might make it cheaper.

Delta also serves Bozeman, but their fares seem to be slightly more expensive than Northwest: $565 vs. $560 for the itinerary I checked. Northwest requires only one connection (in Minneapolis), but Delta requires two (in Salt Lake City and Cincinnati).

Have you considered driving to Billings? When my family lived in Bozeman, we once drove to the Billings airport in order to fly to Florida. The savings must have been quite significant, since we needed to rent a hotel room in order to fly the next morning, as well as drive 150 miles. If you could fly in the afternoon or evening, you wouldn’t even need the hotel room.

Bozeman is a “college town”, so there may be a spring break factor in Northwest’s pricing.

I am quite familiar with Gallatin Field (at least, I was.) That stonework that you may admire there is my father’s handiwork.