AirTran's Disingenuous "System-Wide Summer Sale"

Monday, AirTran announced a so-called “System-Wide Summer Sale.” looked at the price history and found that instead, AirTran had raised prices, then lowered them, calling the delta a “sale.”

The historical data shows $158 is the baseline cost for a round-trip Atlanta-Chicago ticket. AirTran’s sale site lists a one-way ticket from ATL to CHI as costing $79.

Sorry, but returning to normative prices does not a sale make. — BEN POPKEN

System-Wide Summer Sale [Air Tran]
AirTran Historical Fare Data [Farecompare]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Fuzz says:

    I thought prices had to be at a higher level for at least 2 weeks before you could call it a “sale”.

  2. yg17 says:

    This reminds me of some crap I saw Wal-Mart pull once.

    A giant bag of pretzels I frequently bought was $2. I had that price burned into my mind because I love those things and bought them often. One day, they’re suddenly on sale. The sign says “2 for $4” Sale, my ass.

    Then again, at least wally world didn’t raise the price first.

    And Best Buy has done this once. I purchased a car stereo for $220. Next week in the Sunday ad, I see on the page “All car stereos, $20 off” I think yay, I can go get a price adjustment. Until I see the exact same stereo further on down the page for $240.

    Why do companies get away with this? :(

  3. dohtem says:

    Amazon pulls this on a regular basis.

  4. tigerjade says:

    My dad used to pull this stunt with the radio. We’d ask him to turn it up, and he’d turn it down and then back to the same level. Never fooled us, but as with AirTran, we weren’t in a position to change it ourselves.

  5. joeblevins says:

    Jewelry Stores get away with this all the time. They even got investigated a dozen years ago, but since it was an industry-wide practice, can’t charge em…

  6. cde says:

    Stores get away with this because people don’t notice, or don’t care enough. Most think it’s coincidence. Now, someone with a vendetta could easily start keeping track of this happening at a local store and then get the DA or AG to come down on them.

  7. ThinkAboutItPlease says:

    If that kind of stuff is actually legal, should it be?

  8. stpauliegirl says:

    @cde: That’s exactly what happened to Kohl’s department store several years ago with their “sale” prices. Here is an article about it (scroll down to the third item… I can’t seem to find an article talking about the resolution of this, but I’m pretty sure Kohl’s is still open in MA.

  9. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    If that kind of stuff is actually legal, should it be?

    I thought about it.

    I decided we shouldn’t pass a law making every goddamn petty annoyance a case for the courtroom.

  10. bringafajita says:

    I’m never flying AirTran again. They advertised a seat on a long haul flight as a window seat, but when I actually got on the plane the seat was right next to the bathroom and had no window. I asked for a seat change, but they claimed the entire plane was full (even though I could see empty seats).
    I like to look out the window to ease my flying tension, so needless to say that was a pretty uncomfortable flight.

  11. jburland says:

    This is only half the story. Again.

    The price appears to have been set at a given level, those (cheap) seats have been sold, making the next (more expensive) bucket of seats available.
    AirTran has then made cheap seats available again and continued to do so until the end of the chart.

    If you have an issue with this, contact ATPCO, the organisation through which fares are filed, and request historical filing information.

  12. jburland says:

    I stand corrected.

    This isn’t half the story.Ben’s story is a hoax.

    The chart you’re displaying is historical data.
    It shows that in the month prior to June 17, the lowest fare was $158.

    AirTran now has a fare of $79 available July through October.

    And this is fraudulent?

  13. RebekahSue says:

    Does actually have sales, or do they just advertise different items that are “up to 80% retail”? I honestly can’t tell. I do know tht some of the “specials on linen” are the same price all the time (though they ARE less than retail).

  14. Wally East says:

    @jburland: Stand somewhere else. You’re overlooking the words “one-way” prior to the $79 fare. The $158 fare is round-trip.

  15. TWinter says:

    @stpauliegirl: I rather like Kohls, but anyone who shops there regularly should know that their pricing schemes are a bit dodgy since at least half the store is always on sale. But if you know what things cost elsewhere, they do have decent prices on stuff.

  16. andimal says:

    Let’s see some data for a few other routes before wild judgments.
    Airlines typically limit the number of seats in a particular fare class on each flight, so how do we know that all the sale fares for this route aren’t already sold out? Answer is, of course, that we don’t!

  17. jburland says:


    I’m aware that $79 is one-way. Air Tran only.
    Just where does FareCompare indicate that $158 is round-trip?

    It doesn’t and it’s not.

    Look further back and you’ll see that AirTran has been offering $59 one-ways in January and May.

    The currently cheapest OW ATL-CHI on AirTrans is for June is $%234.

    It drops in July to $79.

    Get a re-retraction up there pronto. You’re not doing the research.

  18. jburland says:


    How do you know? Use FareCompare and you’ll see that the sale fares are (still) widely available.

  19. stpauliegirl says:

    @TWinter: Yeah, I also like Kohl’s a lot. I can see where the attorney general was coming from, but what’s really so bad about a store that never sells at retail prices?

  20. Ben Popken says:

    @jburland: I had already contacted the CEO of farecompare and he told me that his results are for a round trip.

    Rick Seaney
    8:53 am
    to Ben Popken
    date Jun 20, 2007 8:53 AM

    AirTran publishes one-way prices, most consumers travel on round-trips so we always quote in round trips (doubling one-ways).


    Rick Seaney


  21. jburland says:

    @Ben Popken:

    Just spoke with Rick Seaney.
    They’re implementing text on their website site to indicate that historical data always displays round-trip fares, irrespective of whether the customer selects one-way or round-trip.

  22. FatLynn says:

    Have the lower fares always been available as one-ways, and is there a way to track that? For some people, $79 one-way is very different from $158 r/t, so it isn’t quite an apples-to-apples comparison.