June 8, 2000 -- We can mull over this week's merger rumors all you want. We can talk about American's separate discussions with Northwest and Delta. We can consider what a potential British Airways-KLM merger means. We can rail some more against United's attempt to buy US Airways.
We can even make up some combinations of our own. Like how about if Anglo-Dutch grocery giant Unilever, which recently gobbled up Ben & Jerry's, SlimFast and Bestfoods, buys TWA and then serves only Lipton tea and Entenmann's chocolate-frosted doughnuts on its flights? Or what if AOL Time Warner buys America West and makes us buy a subscription to Real Simple magazine with every ticket?
But I'd rather do something useful, like talk about airfares. After all, fares are the name of the game. The more we allow airlines to merge, the higher our fares are going to go. In fact, as a new report (http://ostpxweb.dot.gov/aviation/domfares/domfares.htm) from the Department of Transportation reveals, fares are already running amuck, especially in short-haul markets and on city-pairs where competition has previously disappeared.
Now I'm not stupid. I don't expect you to plow through the study, which covers fare activity during last year's third quarter on the nation's 1,000 busiest routes. So I've taken the liberty of hitting some of the highlights. And remember: The following figures are average fares, which means all those cheapie leisure tickets are thrown in with our full-full, walk-up, no-Saturday-stay prices. We business travelers pay a lot more than the average fare on most of the routes covered below.
SHORT HAULS, BIG RIPS
Honorable mention goes to US Airways. It charged travelers $1.27 per mile (an average of $252 one-way) on the 198-mile flight between its Philadelphia hub and Richmond, Virginia. Meanwhile, Delta charged an average of $234 on the 191-mile route between its Atlanta hub and Columbia, South Carolina. That's $1.23 per mile.
THE UNFAIREST FARE IN THE LAND
NO COMPETITION, NO COMPASSION
THE SOUTHWEST EFFECT
Delta commanded 96 percent of the traffic between its Atlanta and Cincinnati hubs and charged an average of $263 one-way for the 373-mile flight. That's almost four times the $71 average fare charged by Southwest and United on the 373-mile flight between Los Angeles and Sacramento.
US Airways carried 94 percent of the traffic between its hubs in Charlotte and Philadelphia and charged an average of $253 on the 447-mile route. On the 447-mile route between San Diego and San Francisco, the average one-way fare was $73.
Northwest owned 88 percent of the traffic between its Memphis and Minneapolis hubs and charged an average fare of $279 on the 700-mile route. The average fare on the 708-mile New York-Savannah route? $145.
Continental controlled 74 percent of the market on the 1,092-mile route between its Houston and Cleveland hubs and charged a one-way fare of $250. The average fare on the 1,093 competitive miles between Fort Lauderdale and Islip, New York? $102.This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.