Why oh why are European fares so high?!

George Hobica, January 11, 2010
Fares from Washington DC:

    Last year at this time, we seem to recall, airlines got all panicky, as they usually do, and lowered fares to Europe for what we call dead-of-winter travel. In past years, we've seen, for example, New York to Paris on Air France nonstops (we kid you not) for under $300 round-trip, including tax. This year fares are sky high on most routes, in the $700's and $800's including taxes and surcharges. The only relatively bright spots are a few destinations such as Madrid and Barcelona, which can be had for $500 or so.

    So what's going on? Well, capacity cuts, for one, of course. Airlines have cut routes and frequencies, parking planes in the Mojave, and that keeps fares high. But there might be another reason, what we call the Central Park Theory.

    You see, most mornings we take Browser, our site's mascot, for a long stroll in Central Park. And this winter, we've noticed a lot of foreign languages being spoken. French, Italian, something that sounds like Swedish (or it could be Dutch or who knows, we're not linguists here), Russian, you name it. In fact, we have to walk quite a distance before we hear a word of English! Tourists from Europe, in other words!  Indeed, New York is crawling with them! Not that we mind, necessarily, except when they walk a little too slowly on the sidewalks, three by three, holding hands, stopping to take pictures....

    Anyway, the point is that these lovely folks eventually go home, sitting in the very same seats to Europe that we were hoping to buy for ourselves, cheap. But because the dollar is so weak and Euro so strong, they have more buying power than we do, and fares to the US seem cheap by comparison.

    Combined with capacity cuts, this might go a long way to explain why this year the airlines have not had winter fire sales to Europe.

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