Airlines Cutting Number Of Available Seats On Trans-Atlantic Flights To Support Higher Fares

In order to justify higher fares on flights across the wide, blue Atlantic, and protect themselves somewhat from European economic woes, U.S. airlines carriers are cutting down on the number of seats available on those flights. Summer ticket prices to western Europe have been climbing this year, and demand for those seats is holding steady at the same time.

Prices for flights to that part of Europe are up on average 3%, says Bloomberg News, citing Travelocity.com. Despite economic problems, people are still interest in buying Trans-Atlantic flights, with ticket sales rising 5.9% to 1.31 million for the peak travel months of summer.

Paring the number of seats that are available for sale allows carriers to maintain pricing power somewhat, and keep up the seasonal profits they’re used to in the face of the sluggish economy.

Delta is usually the first U.S. airline to report its operating results each month, so its traffic report for June will be telling. In May, after cutting capacity on flights, it filled 84.6% of its seats, an increase of 0.9 of a percentage point from a year ago.

Average prices from the U.S. to western Europe are running around $1,315 for May through September, which is 3% higher than the same period last year.

And even though jet fuel prices have been dropping, cutting costs for carriers, recent mergers between airlines are going to keep prices heading upwards, predict experts. Great for the airlines, not so great for the rest of us.

Airlines Lift U.S.-To-Europe Fares By Paring Seats [Bloomberg]

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  1. wombats says:

    Maybe they were just booking the flights with a mac.

  2. StarKillerX says:

    So now an airline trying to reduce unused seats on long flights is some nefarious act?

    • aerodawg says:

      Yeah seriously. People have a right to ultra-cheap flights you know…

    • BorkBorkBork says:

      Flights are too full, people complain.

      Tickets are too expensive, people complain.

      You just can’t win, apparently.

    • Phred says:

      Are they actually physically removing seats from planes, or are they simply not selling some seats and leaving them empty?

      • nbarnard says:

        Airlines measure capacity in seats per day/week/month. So if a plane of 100 seats makes two flights each way between New York and London that is 200 seats to london and 200 seats to New York per day.

        So what they’re probably doing is reducing the number of flights, not the number of actual people on the plane. In general you always want to fly the plane as full as possible..

        • sweaterhogans says:

          That’s what I thought. I haven’t been on a plane with empty seats in YEARS. But I have noticed that when I look up flights from the east coast to europe, there is only 1 (maybe 2) a day per airline. I’m really beginning to think that “they” don’t want people to fly anymore.

      • jimbobjoe says:

        Sometimes seats are removed. Economy class seats are removed and business/first class seats are put in their place. Overall the quantity of seats on the jet decreases, though there may be more money to be made from the upper class fares.

  3. PragmaticGuy says:

    And the problem with a business trying to make the most money they legally can is…??? Just remember, few years back when there was plenty of bandwidth cell phone companies were begging people to get smartphones. Now that lots of people have them and demand is starting to exceed supply do we see prices going DOWN? I think not. Airlines are just trying to make supply meet demand.

    • Velifer says:

      Can you start your own airline and provide a competing service? No. The barriers to entry are too high. So it’s not a free market, and your arguments about supply and demand curves fall flat.

      • PragmaticGuy says:

        And this is why cable companies have wi-fi hotspots. Because if you have cable you get that for free instead of using your data plan. If you think airlines are doing this illegally it’s called “collusion” and you can bet the FAA and the gov’t would be all over this for racketeering and price fixing at the very least.

        • Blueskylaw says:

          Yes, because the goverment has a good track record for prosecuting large corporations for illegal acts; I mean, look at how many people went to jail from the banking, mortgage and ratings corporations for causing a worlwide economic meltdown that is still continuing.

          Ohhh wait. . .

      • SirWired says:

        The barriers to entry are too high? Says who? It seems like new airlines start up all the time.

        And given that there is a large amount of competition in the trans-atlantic market, I’m not sure how you can argue that it’s not a free market. Unless of course you have one iota of proof that the airlines are collaborating.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          Really? They do? That’s odd, since most airports have exclusivity deals with the major carriers. Especially international airports, which have exclusivity and control the number of flights to and from different countries.

  4. CaughtLooking says:

    It’s not like the Olympics don’t have anything to do with it.

  5. VeryFroid says:

    “3% higher than the same period last year.”

    In line with inflation and given the Olympics in London, quite a modest rise.

    “cutting down on the number of seats available on those flights”
    Really ? Do they are flying the same number of flights, but leaving some seats unsold ? Doesnt sounds quite accurate. But if true, those going to Europe will experience less crowded planes.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      Is it, though? Did the average US Income increase by 3%, after inflation? What’s that? It *DROPPED* by substantially more than double that?

      The cost of goods must have inflated, then. What’s that? You say they’ve dropped, too?

      Damn those falling prices of labour and raw materials causing inflation!

  6. greatgoogly says:

    When booking to visit the wife’s family in Germany, we make every attempt possible to avoid US based airlines. They are just horrible. Lufthansa for the win.

  7. SirWired says:

    As long as the airlines are not acting in concert, I believe this is how supply and demand is supposed to work.

  8. 808 says:

    One variable that affects travelers’ choices is not addressed in this article. Is the decrease in available seat miles because of a reduction of flights, a change to aircraft with fewer seats, or some combination of these factors?

  9. sjones says:

    Phred: When the author writes that the airlines are cutting available seats, she means that they are flying fewer flights on the particular route and/or using smaller planes (e.g., subbing a 757 for a 767, and using that 767 on a different route instead). They’re not intentionally leaving seats empty or removing them.

  10. thomwithanh says:

    Business class fares are actually down… ORD-LHR on American in J is running about $2500 r/t for a ticket that would usually go for 5-6k