Want to avoid wasting money on airfares? Find an airline seeking to elbow in on a rival’s turf.
And watch for an unprecedented bonanza of new, cheaper choices in 2020.
Airlines announce new service six to 9 months before truly beginning flights. As with any business, it may possibly take time to build customer traffic. When a brand new flight comes online, carriers should fill thousands of empty seats. Competitors usually already have direct flights on that route.
Southwest Airlines announced nonstop flights between San Diego and Maui beginning April 14. Hawaiian and Alaska airlines already fly that route nonstop. However two weeks earlier than Southwest’s flight launches, the lowest round-trip fare available for a four-day trip was $818 in a recent spot-check. Two weeks after the new flights begin, the lowest round-trip fare for a four-day trip was only $303, a 63% decline.
“The best way to stimulate demand is with price,” says Rick Seaney, chief executive of travel-data firm 3Victors.
Airlines have gotten so good at forecasting demand that carriers usually keep away from the flashy sales of the past to stimulate bookings. However new routes are an area that may still see major, unexpected price adjustments.
Booking app Hopper scoured its database of 50 trillion itineraries. It found that the average price reduction after a low-fare carrier got here into a market was 17% between late 2017 and early 2019. On average, year-over-year demand increased by 30%—low fares get folks flying.
Savvy travelers have long recognized to look for announcements of latest service to seek out cheap places to go, and to pounce on cheaper tickets if they know they’ll fly a certain route and hear of new service. It typically requires plenty of planning—it’s possible you’ll be booking six months before departure.
A check of airline schedules by 3Victors discovered that American, Alaska, Delta, Frontier, United and Southwest combined had more than 60 routes they flew frequently in the first half of this yr that they didn’t fly in the first half of 2018.
However the strategy is more likely to pay extra dividends next yr, when the Boeing 737 MAX gets cleared to fly again, and the brand new flights won’t be a six- or nine-month wait. Boeing has built and parked tons of of jets that will get delivered to airlines as soon as the grounding is lifted. New service announcements will drop rapid-fire as soon as the MAX is cleared.
That likely won’t come before March, as regulators work to certify the plane is safe with Boeing’s proposed fixes. And it’ll take months to get the hundreds of mothballed planes airworthy and worked into airline schedules.
However it is going to be a new-route jackpot that travelers have never actually seen before. Southwest, for instance, will be including more than 75 airplanes to its schedule. That’s like adding another small airline to U.S. competition. And you won’t have to fly a MAX to get low-cost tickets, in case you’re apprehensive about trusting a plane that has had two fatal crashes and been grounded for nearly 9 months. As these planes come into service, tickets on existing flights on these routes likely will drop.
“It’s going to be really concentrated in certain airlines and certain markets, and that’s where you’ll end with the largest impact,” says Patrick Surry, chief data scientist at Hopper.
How to discover all those bargains? Check the news section of airline web sites for announcements, or arrange price alerts for particular markets that you’re interested in via booking websites like Hopper or Kayak.
I checked out 20 totally different routes where airlines have lately announced service adjustments—two where flights had been being discontinued and 18 where new service was announced. As soon as new flights are announced, airlines being selling tickets for them.
Discounter Norwegian announced nonstop service three days a week starting May 6 between Paris and Austin, Texas. Two weeks before these flights begin, American’s cheapest price for a round trip from Austin to Paris with a connection was $831 when I did the price-checking Nov. 9. For a trip starting two weeks after the brand new flights begin, you would buy the Norwegian nonstop for $569 round trip.
Spirit announced daily service from Philadelphia to Cancún starting March 1. The fare two weeks before: $542. And two weeks after: $442.
It doesn’t always work. Of those 20 routes, 15 saw lower fares with more flights and higher fares when flights were pulled. In some markets, incumbents seem to ignore entrants like lesser-known carrier Sun Country and keep on with similar pricing.
Sun Country announced flights on Mondays and Fridays between Dallas-Fort Worth and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, beginning June 5. Two weeks before, American’s flight for a four-day round trip was $785. Two weeks after, departing June 19 for that four-day trip, Sun Country’s price was $511 round trip, and American’s was $785.
Hopper’s Mr. Surry says prices usually do come down, however huge airlines won’t match the price dollar-for-dollar. “Prices would possibly drop 40% to 50%, however the main airlines only drop 15%,” he says.
My small survey found additional flights made only a small change if a discounter wasn’t involved. American Airlines is adding a second daily flight between Dallas-Fort Worth and Rome starting July 2, for instance. The two-week before-and-after test found fares only 9% lower after the second flight begins.
Mr. Surry says the deals rely not so much on the brand new entrant as on the incumbents. If there’s already heavy competition on a route, the price affect is smaller. One instance: Spirit began flying between Nashville and Fort Lauderdale, however Southwest and JetBlue already fly that route. Costs didn’t change.
However when Spirit started flying between Austin, Texas, and Detroit, a route where Delta has a monopoly, fares dropped 30% with new competition.
Southwest’s Hawaiian push is affecting costs on many routes. Southwest flights between San Diego and Honolulu begin April 20. Two weeks before, a round-trip ticket was priced lately at $733. Take that very same trip two weeks after Southwest begins flying that route nonstop and the fare was $307, a 58% decline.
On the downside for travelers, after Alaska announced it could end nonstop flights In March between San Francisco and Kona, Hawaii, fares on United more than doubled. They jumped from $328 round trip to $748.