Article on the Freakonomics Blog about the increasing cost of air travel

The Freakonomics Blog had an interesting article yesterday about the increasing cost of air travel. The first line read as follows:

The cost of air travel is going up, and airlines are counting on us not to notice.

Okay, I’m not going to lie, when I first read that I rolled my eyes a bit and figured the article was about “hidden” fees. That’s the kind of dimwitted stuff you read about on my blog, and not over on the Freakonomics blog. Anyway, as it turns out the article is about something completely different and has some really interesting stats. And hey, I guess I have to mention it since somehow I got a holler.

Nice article, Steve!

Filed Under: Media
  1. Back in 1978, I flew LHR to New York (can’t remember which airport) on Freddie Laker’s Sky Train. Everyone remembers this as the first budget airline, but my fare was over £200. That was a lot of money back then and airport taxes were a lot less than now. I’m always amazed at how low air fares are nowadays – it’s still possible to fly that route for just a few hundred pounds.

  2. lucky, I have a related anecdote that I was hoping to get your input on, what you would have done.

    A couple weeks ago, my mom flew DTW-ORD-HKG-PVG on AA/CX/KA in J then same return in F. The flight to ORD was no problem due to the connection time, but the CX flight took off about 30-45 mins late. The HKG-PVG flight was the last one of the night, and since there was about 40 pax on the CX flight that would be connecting, they held the plane. The luggage misconnected of course, both in ORD (!) and HKG.

    The return was a bit more eventful. There were two morning PVG-HKG flights on KA that would have made the CX HKG-ORD flight but I stupidly booked the later one. There ended up being a one hour delay. At HKG, CX gave my mom new BPs, to SFO in CX F, then ORD in AA, then DTW in UA. Baggage all delayed of course.

    What would you have done differently lucky? In the return I suppose book the earlier PVG-HKG flight for a 2 hr connection rather than a 1 hr connection, but would you have tried to get a flight to JFK or YYZ on CX? What about getting them to book a nonstop SFO-DTW on DL?

  3. A good article. Only this week. – as another UA mechanical caused a 7 hr flight delay to my wife, an expensive early morning taxi ride home, and lost productivity next day – we were talking a about how the airlines inflict economic losses on all the waiting passengers. The fragility in the system is increasing and becoming an unaccounted problem for the economy. Perhaps the silver lining is that it is a further encouragement to pick up web meeting approaches rather than risk the flight, but I still enjoy some of the travel.

  4. I would think network reliability would be considered by travel professionals when booking or negotiating contracts for large companies. The average consumer may not be able to weigh all the non monetary costs of a particular itinerary, but are the professionals not considering things like airport delay rates, time and hassle of transferring at one airport vs another, on time rates of certain itineraries, etc?

  5. @ anon — I assume this was an award ticket? The best I can recommend is to always plan layovers as long as possible. On an award I’d do everything in my power to avoid an hour connection. And that’s not just for the sake of making the connection, but also so your luggage makes the connection. In this case I would have probably booked her a longer connection, but there’s not much else that could have been done.

    Airlines will do almost everything they can to rebook you on one of their partners, so assuming it was an award ticket I wouldn’t expect them to rebook on a non-OneWorld/partner airline. If it were a paid first class fare where they can easily be rebooked in paid first on another airline, I’d say that’s much more likely to happen.

  6. The padding of the flight times to ‘hide’ delays is an important issue, although you’d think that someone would have more definitive data about that and its effect on ‘real’ delays over time. The rest seems less systematic – surely there are more analyses of issues related to the network and real delays – average time delayed, etc – that would be useful to make the point.
    For instance, the USA today analysis is tantalizing but not very comprehensive.

    The MIT/George Mason article is truly awesome. It notes in 2007, average delay per passenger (with 74% of passengers at 0 with no significant delay) was 30 minutes; 3.4% of passengers were delayed 8 hours on average.

    So, you do have a very long tail – I’d love to see that number over time from 2000-2012.

  7. Thanks lucky, I will keep in mind the advice to book longer connection times in mind. At the time, since she was going through HKG, I didn’t think it would be a problem since she has connected at HKG in F on CX on award tickets several times before. But I didn’t consider the delay at PVG…

    What about the new BP they handed her at HKG that was for SFO? Since her final destination was DTW, would you have tried to get CX to put her on the YYZ or JFK flights to avoid a transcon?

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