Making sense of high fares

Tracy Stewart, October 17, 2008
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q. Maybe I'm missing something but I keep hearing the reason for the increase in the price of flights is due to fuel costs. Two things - fuel costs are dropping but I don't see fares dropping. Secondly, if it costs Northwest $350 to fly me from Portland to Seattle to Detroit in January then how can it cost them $700 to do it November?

    A. One reason travel may seem so expensive in November (and we're guessing you mean late November) is because of the Thanksgiving holiday. The airlines know that's when folks want to travel and they raise fares accordingly. Another reason is that fuel is purchased ahead of the time and even though it's gone down recently, it is still expensive. But mostly, it's because the airline industry is basically unregulated by our government.  (Remember, Congress wasn't even able to pass legislation limiting how long passengers can be stuck on the tarmac in planes with overflowing toilets and without food!)  They basically make their own rules, which also applies to seemingly arbitrary changes in schedule.  Only the government is going to be able to do something about it... but we're not going to hold our breath!

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