Florida suspended road tolls as a way of encouraging people to get out of affected areas. I’m not sure drivers are price sensitive enough to base an evacuation decision on toll road pricing. However I suppose a creative solution to encourage evacuation would be a negative toll, pay residents to leave. Freeway throughput aside I guess they just don’t want the optics of charging people to leave danger, rather than actually doing something useful. Isn’t that often the way?
People have been complaining about expensive airfares to fly out of Florida. With everyone leaving because of the hurricane, there are few seats left. Last seats are generally priced at full fare. This isn’t airlines ‘raising prices because of the hurricane’ this is the standard way they sell tickets faced with unusually high demand.
JetBlue however capped ticket prices at $99 for non-stops and $159 for connections out of hurricane-affected Florida including for last seat availability. American also capped the prices of its flights.
Mommy Points says they did the right thing. I’m not so sure. I’m certainly not going to criticize them for dropping prices, but I’m not sure it’s laudable either.
- Full planes are full planes. Dropping the price doesn’t mean more people are going to be able to fly to safety.
- I worry that more people could buy tickets speculatively at $99. Worry that your flight might cancel? Buy a $99 ticket from JetBlue and a $99 ticket from American as a backup. Will artificially cheap prices lead to hoarding, and keep people who might otherwise evacuate by air from buying a ticket once planes sell out at these prices?
Travis at One Mile at a Time says at these prices ‘book now, ask questions later’ isn’t he making my point?
- There’s no question people need help given the risks of the storm. While South Florida gets hurricanes it’s at least 25 years since we’ve seen one with the same potential to wreak havoc as Irma.
- But does indiscriminately pricing at $99 provide that help? Does a financial services executive or a ball player deserve the cheap seat at the expense of the shareholders of the airline — teacher pensions, for instance? It’s not going to take a ton away from a teacher’s retirement account, but that’s not the point, this seems morally ambiguous at best.
It’s one thing to help people who need the help, versus subsidizing everyone including those better off than you are.
When you drop prices you sell out even more quickly. It’s not obvious that’s a good thing.
Adding flights is a good thing. But $99 fares isn’t increasing the number of people who evacuate to safety. It just isn’t.
Full planes are full regardless of the price the tickets are sold at. If the price is too low fewer people may get to safety because of a run on the flights either by people booking more than they need or people booking speculatively rather than when they’re certain they’ll travel. As a result while I am not criticizing $99 fares, I’m not ready to applaud them either.