When Airlines Change Fares, Not All Airports Are Equal

A new study on business travel fares finds that tickets from San Francisco had the most price volatility (PDF) last year, while New York’s LaGuardia Airport showed the least. European carriers—British Airways, Lufthansa, and Air France-KLM—adjusted their prices most, and Alaska Airlines and US Airways tinkered the least.

Courtesy Yapta

The data from more than 100,000 itineraries over the second half of 2013 were collected by Yapta, an airfare tracking service. Yapta restricted the airport rankings to the 15 most common cities in their customers’ itineraries and to U.S. point of sale.

The study shows the effect of business travel and hub dominance for airlines, with seven of the nine least-price-volatile airports serving as hubs. LaGuardia isn’t a hub but it commands a heavy portion of business traffic as the closest airport to Manhattan. Of the six airports Yapta identified as most volatile, only Dallas-Fort Worth is a true dominant hub airport, albeit one where Spirit Airlines has been growing rapidly the past two years. The other five have a heavy concentration of flights by JetBlue, Southwest, and Virgin America.

Yapta makes software that alerts travelers when airlines lower the price on a route the customer has booked. Nearly three-quarters of those alerts were for bookings that were made under negotiated rates a company had with an airline, with average savings of $204, after change fees, when the company rebooked at the new rate. For non-negotiated rates, travelers saved $291. The most price drops occurred on Tuesday (21 percent), with the fewest (6 percent) on Sunday, according to the study.

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