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United/Continental Merger…Airfare Increases? 10/1/2010

As of today, United Airlines and Continental Airlines are ONE!  It will likely take till the end of next year before all components of their operation are unified, but their airplanes should start to show off their new “United/Continental Globe” look, soon.

Since United and Continental represent a significant percentage of passenger seats from the mainland to Hawaii, this merger will result in higher fares we will all have to pay more to fly back and forth.  As if Hawaii’s tourist-reliant economy is not already suffering from the on-going recession (I don’t really care that the government says that we are “officially” NOT in a recession, nor do I think that most hotel/restaurant/service unemployed workers in Hawaii care), higher airfares will simply add to these woes.  To be fair, I should also include restaurant/hotel management/owners to that list.

The advantage to United/Continental are obvious.  Consolidation of operational services will result in savings.  The elimination of redundant flights will result in savings.  The removal of a competitor in a market will permit higher fares.

Notice, none of these merger benefits result in better service or lower fares as a result of these improved efficiencies.  In most businesses, operational savings often result in lower prices to the consumer, but the airlines operate under a completely different set of rules.

The existence of, and continued growth of, Southwest Airlines shows that the flying public is quickly reaching their limit of higher fares and add-on fees.  Southwest Airlines’ latest advertising campaign highlighting their “Bags Fly Free” policy makes a great point that by the time you ticket a family of four for a vacation, you end up paying for a 5th ticket by the time you add in all the add on fees the airlines seem intent on charging us.

AOL published an article regarding both these issues today:

The one change I would love to see is making the costs of tickets transparent and easily comparable.  Right now, when you go to a ticketing website and find a fare, what you see is not often what you end up with!   I know I have gotten excited about finding a low fare, only to have that excitement smothered by the time I see the final price after they have added on all the fees and airport security and landing fees, etc.

If they know these fees apply to a particular routing and there is no option for NOT paying them to fly, then isn’t that really part of the cost of the ticket?  Does it really matter, other than being a technically different part of the cost?  When I click to select a flight based on the fare offered, I don’t want to have to go through another step, let alone 2 or 3, in order to see what the final cost of that ticket will actually be.

I would like to see travel websites and airline websites show the actual ticket cost up front, including all fees and charges.  I would also like them to post all the “optional” add-on fees in an easy to read, even easier to find, chart…baggage charges, seat selection charges, blanket/pillow use fees, etc., similar to the one that the AOL article uses.

What do you think?

Fare Buzz


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