Airlines are once again trying to get business travelers to pay more for their last-minute trips.
For the fifth time this year, airlines are trying to raise fares, says Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com, which tracks fares. The previous three attempts focused on tickets purchased within seven days of travel, which are typically most popular among business travelers.
Only one airfare hike has stuck this year, and that was led by Delta last week. That too targeted business travelers.
The failed attempts had led many analysts to believe that airlines were finally nervous about charging travelers more than they’re willing to pay. But clearly, carriers have no such worries about business travelers, who usually pay between $600 and $1,500 for last-minute tickets.
This time around, Delta is once again making the first move. On Thursday, Delta raised fares on business travelers by $4 to $10 roundtrip, and in some cases by $20 roundtrip in premium cabins, Seaney says. American Airlines matched the increase Thursday evening, and United followed Friday morning, he says.
“If legacy airlines are worried the sequester will stunt business travel demand, they aren’t showing it,” Seaney says, referring to the $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that will take effect today if Congress and the White House don’t reach a deal.
Seaney says that some limited price increases by JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines earlier this week might have provided some momentum for the latest hike.
JetBlue bumped prices for their refundable walk-up tickets. Southwest raised some business travel fares it didn’t get a chance to the week before. Usually a fare hike won’t stick unless Southwest participates.
“It is pretty clear that carriers are concerned about over cooking prices for domestic leisure travelers who would only be hit by increases on high demand days yielding into more expensive price points,” Seaney says. High demand days include Spring Break and Saturday and Sunday departures.
Last year, airlines were able to raise fares seven times.