The New York Times yesterday covered price gouging charges against the airlines in the lead up to Hurricane Irma. Or I should say they covered grandstanding by Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward J. Markey and Florida Representative Charlie Crist.
— Leigh (@LeighDow) September 5, 2017
It’s not well articulated in the article, but there is mention that average fares out of Florida actually weren’t higher close to departure than they were to weeks earlier. So there wasn’t any systematic gouging, just the occasional price spike for those last seats at the last minute on a given aircraft — the result of standard airline pricing algorithms, jacking up the price of the last few seats on a plane as they always do, rather than any conscious attempt to charge customers more as the hurricane approached.
The Times piece doesn’t mention until the last paragraph of the piece (talk about burying the lede!) that once airlines were getting criticized — and before politicians wrote their very angry letters — several airlines imposed price caps for instance JetBlue and American set theirs at $99 one-way for non-stop flights out of Florida.
Both Delta and American brought in extra capacity out of Florida, too, although American’s Miami operation didn’t handle it especially well and several flights unexpectedly cancelled for lack of crew (and there weren’t staff to offload bags, either).
While airlines were going to heroic lengths to actually fly people out of affected areas, what were Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward J. Markey doing besides plotting how to gain attention from the Times? Lest anyone doubt their concern is genuine, they didn’t just lodge a complaint with the Secretary of Transportation they sent out a press release about it.