Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Comparing Houston Flights (Part 1)

Last week I had mentioned that I was doing some comparison shopping among different airlines, flying out of Houston, to see what the price effect/advantages of Southwest (WN) over UA would be, if any.  On a lark, I decided to throw in American, when available, just to provide another pricing option.

Since it's Summertime, and I thought this might be a popular route, I've decided to start with Houston-Orlando leaving Friday August 17th, returning to Houston Friday, August 24th.  For my mock "family" I decided it would be two adults, with one kid in the 12-17 range and one in the 5-11 range.  I tried to pick tickets as close as possible on each airline in price and time.

Let's start with UA:

5 departure times (on direct flights) same price for each
Again, 5 return options at this price pont.
UA total:
$1536.40 All in.
Now let's look at WN:

Several options, some with stops some without.
Again, several options from which to choose.
WN Total:
Finally AA:

Several options, none direct
Again, many options, none direct.
AA Total:

 Surprisingly, American offered the lowest price, and had a variety of options on paper.  In reality however, if you look closely, American only offered a handful of options leaving IAH and MCO, their choice was how long you wanted to wait at DFW.  (There's a wine-bar at DFW, so all is not lost if you're not travelling with children.)

For this rate the "Southwest effect" is not in place**.  For both WN and UA the dollars per mile realized is right around $.23.  In today's market that's not low.  As a matter of fact, it's higher than one can find for Las Vegas right now.  AA (who many believe is offering an unannounced fare sale) is running at about $.18/mile.  That's not stunning, but it's at the lower end of what you can currently find on most Summer routes to tourist destinations. 

Still, you can see the advantage, in this case, of keeping loyalty to UA.  Not only is their direct route network far superior out of IAH, but their prices are in line with WN. (again, in this case, I'm not making a broad assessment and will not until I run some more of these)  If you're an occasional traveller and don't mind a lay-over at DFW for an hour or three, then AA is definitely the way to go.  If you've got equity built up with UA then it's hard to see where moving to AA would be of benefit for a temporary price decrease.  Laying over on every flight in Dallas when you fly would be an inconvenience.

Anyway, that's round one.  I've got more to come.

**As a way of quantifying that, the AA flight from Dallas to MCO is priced at approx $.16/mile (983 miles, $300).  It appears that AA is pricing IAH to MCO the same as DFW to MCO currently, so Houston is definitely seeing a sale.  In Dallas WN is more expensive than AA FWIW.  However, at $.23/mile from Houston it appears that WN is forced to match UA's price and not vice-versa.  Just an interesting aside.

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