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Nickels & Dimes: Tax Holiday For Airlines, Not For You

A government snafu has offered airlines a unique opportunity to earn consumers’ good will, generate some positive news coverage and boost ticket sales – but the airlines aren’t taking it, according to WSJ.com blog The Middle Seat Terminal.

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A Congressional stalemate over funding means that the government cannot currently collect taxes of around $45 on a $400 round-trip ticket. But rather than passing that savings along to travelers, the country’s major carriers actually raised fares over the weekend to make up the difference.

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, US Airways and jetBlue were first off the runway to raise prices on Friday night by at least 7.5% to keep the bottom-line ticket price unchanged, despite the tax-break. United, Delta and Continental followed suit Saturday night, while Frontier and Virgin America hiked prices on Sunday night, according to Tom Parsons, CEO of BestFares.com. A spokesman for Virgin America says it will still pass on the tax discount on Mexico and Seattle fares to consumers. Spokespeople for the airlines say they need to remain competitive as other airlines raised their prices over the weekend. But not all carriers moved in lockstep: Alaska Airlines passed on the tax savings to customers.

Steve Lott, a spokesman for the Washington DC-based Air Transport Association of America, defended the weekend price hikes and says flyers will still end up paying the same. “This short-term additional revenue for airlines, which does not mean a fare increase for consumers, benefits all stakeholders—customers, employees and investors—by temporarily improving tiny industry margins to better cover costs, and enable airlines to invest in their product and service,” Lotts says. Allison Steinberg, a spokeswoman for jetBlue, adds, “We’re working with the federal government to determine how the recent expiration of the federal excise tax, and other taxes, will impact our operation.”

Airline experts disagree with the industry’s stance. Parsons says airlines chose not to give consumers a “humungous stimulus” to fill empty seats. “They threw away a great opportunity and shot themselves in the foot,” he says. Parsons notes that September is one of the slowest months of the year, especially with kids going back to school. “Instead, airlines are going to get all of this negative publicity for being greedy.” George Hobica, founder of AirFareWatchdog.com, says retailers don’t jack up prices when local governments declare sales tax holidays. “This was a tone-deaf, bone-headed move on the part of the airlines.”

Frequent flyers, do you think these fare increases are fair?

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    • Within the article we see two quotes:
      “Steve Lott, a spokesman for the Washington DC-based Air Transport Association of America, defended the weekend price hikes and says flyers will still end up paying the same.”

      and:
      “Airline experts disagree with the industry’s stance. Parsons says airlines chose not to give consumers a “humungous stimulus” to fill empty seats. ”

      Here’s a free clue.
      In terms of supply and demand, with demand a relatively constant, and supply of seats restricted, the airlines don’t have any problems filling seats. The planes are already flying full or near full.

      So there is no incentive to discount tickets.
      In fact there is an incentive to hike the prices so that the consumer will continue to pay the same. Unless you knew about the snafu, you’d never be the wiser as to the change in price.

      At the same time, when the snafu ends and the tax is going to be applied, the airlines can keep the fares the same, and collect the tax, placing blame on the US Government for the tax. Its a win/win for them.

      I just can’t wait for the airlines to muck things up again and then expect a bailout from the government.

    • It is really amazing how even the WSJ doesn’t understand elasticity of demand. Consumers have shown a willingness to pay a certain price for an airline ticket and the price they are willing to pay does not change based on the government’s tax policy. If Boeing gave all of the airlines a discount on the cost of buying airplanes would the same journalists and tv anchors be upset that the airlines didn’t all lower their prices by a similar amount? Give me a break already. If you don’t like the prices being charged by the airlines, then don’t purchase a ticket. I am going to start watching the cost of news print. If the prices go down, I am going to demand that the WSJ reduce the price of their subscription by an equal amount.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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133.48MDow Volume:
Avg Vol: 113.01M
Unchanged
201
Decliners
1922
Advancers
4480
Price Chg %Chg 1 Day
Range: 1 Day
  • 1 Day
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Dow
/quotes/zigman/627449/realtime 16,351 +293 1.82%
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/quotes/zigman/12633936/realtime 4,750 +114 2.46%
S&P 500
/quotes/zigman/3870025/realtime 1,949 +35 1.83%
GlobalDow
/quotes/zigman/629063/realtime 2,314 +0 0.02%
Gold
/quotes/zigman/662444/delayed 1,132 -1 0.11%
Oil
/quotes/zigman/2331095/delayed 46.22 -0.03 0.06%
FTSE 100
/quotes/zigman/3173262/delayed 6,083 +25 0.41%
DAX
/quotes/zigman/2380246/delayed 10,048 +32 0.32%
CAC 40
/quotes/zigman/3173214/delayed 4,555 +14 0.30%
FTSE MIB
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IBEX 35
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Asia Dow
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Nikkei 225
/quotes/zigman/5986735/delayed 18,253 +157 0.87%
Hang Seng
/quotes/zigman/2622475/delayed 20,935 -250 1.18%
Shanghai
/quotes/zigman/1859015/delayed 3,160 -6 0.20%
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/quotes/zigman/1652085/delayed 25,705 +251 0.99%
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/quotes/zigman/1709939/delayed 2,900 +21 0.74%
Euro
/quotes/zigman/16008136/realtime/sampled 1.12 +0.00 0.04%
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/quotes/zigman/16008150/realtime/sampled 120.40 +0.07 0.06%
Pound
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Australia$
/quotes/zigman/16008115/realtime/sampled 0.70 0.00 0.53%
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/quotes/zigman/15866666/realtime 2.17 -0.01 0.65%
German 10y
/quotes/zigman/15866409/realtime 0.78 -0.02 1.96%
Italy 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866497/realtime 2.00 0.00 0.02%
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/quotes/zigman/7599553/delayed 366 -1 0.34%
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/quotes/zigman/38649152/delayed 16,347 +17 0.10%
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/quotes/zigman/30356461/delayed 1,949 +2 0.10%
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Symbol Price Change % Change
FB /quotes/zigman/9962609/composite 89.89 2.66 3.05%
AAPL /quotes/zigman/68270/composite 112.34 4.62 4.29%
GOOG /quotes/zigman/30194416/composite 614.34 16.55 2.77%
BAC /quotes/zigman/190927/composite 15.85 0.32 2.06%
C /quotes/zigman/5065548/composite 51.75 0.81 1.59%
F /quotes/zigman/264304/composite 13.87 0.15 1.09%
T /quotes/zigman/398198/composite 32.82 0.50 1.55%
BP /quotes/zigman/247026/composite 32.20 0.06 0.19%
GE /quotes/zigman/227468/composite 24.57 0.69 2.89%
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5 yr CD
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2 yr CD
0.8%
1 yr CD
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MMA $10K+
0.3%
MMA $50K+
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National averages from Bankrate.com

You Don’t Need Another Credit Card, You Need A Better One.
Avg. APR Last Week 6 Months
Low Interest 11.62% 11.62% 11.53%
Business 12.85% 12.85% 12.85%
Student 13.14% 13.14% 13.14%
Balance Transfer 14.12% 14.12% 14.00%
Airline 15.10% 15.10% 15.15%
Reward 15.14% 15.14% 14.99%
Cash Back 15.27% 15.27% 15.26%
Instant Approval 18.00% 18.00% 17.93%
Bad Credit 22.73% 22.73% 22.48%
Source:CreditCards.com

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