Did Airlines Price Gouge After Amtrak Crash?
It’s clear that airline prices rose exponentially after the Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia two weeks ago, clogging up the widely traveled Northeast Corridor for days. But was it a price gouge?
There are multiple reports of flights from New York to Washington, D.C. costing between $700 and $1,100. One even cost a whopping $1,700. That’s much higher than the typical asking price for last-minute tickets. In fact, I found one on Thursday that only cost $560.
Were the airlines cashing in on a tragedy that killed eight people and injured more than 200? Or is it simply a product of aviation industry economics because prices rise when seats fill up? Depends who you ask.
George Hobica of Airfarewatchdog.com didn’t mince words in an interview with the New York Daily News shortly after the crash.
“It’s opportunism,” Hobica told the Daily News. “The airlines know it’s a big business route and they can charge what they want.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer, however, spoke with an American Airlines rep who claimed the company made no changes to its pricing structure after the train crash. The newspaper also spoke to an expert who said the price increases were nothing out of the ordinary.
“In general, they didn’t change their fares. What happened was the flights filled up,” said Brett Snyder, author of CrankyFlier.com, an airline industry blog. “As planes get fuller, the fares go up for the remaining seats — the rule of supply and demand.
“That’s what you see on every flight, and this was no different,” Snyder said. “It’s just that these markets had higher-than-normal demand just because there was no Amtrak train. They were filling up more quickly, and so fares in some cases were going up.”
The issue certainly got the attention of U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.) who said in a statement that he’ll follow up with the Federal Trade Commission and Dept. of Justice to ensure there was no wrongdoing.
If this drastic and sudden increase in ticket prices is an effort to make money from desperate travelers impacted by this tragedy, it’s simply unacceptable. The airlines should know that they’re under the microscope as those in the Northeast struggle to cope with the fallout of the crash.