Spring break prompts air fare prices to drop

By Hollie Costello
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 19, 1996

Competition is fierce between airlines as the companies lower fares to lure students into flying to their spring break destinations.

"Typically, a fare war is designed to generate traffic," said David Messing, spokesperson for Continental Airlines.

One airline lowers its prices to retain its market and the other airlines follow as a result of their competitive drives, Messing said.

The cheapest way to get to a destination is rarely air travel, but fare wars make flying an option for students. While there is no set rule on when they will occur, anytime airlines aren't receiving an average booking for a destination they slash prices, Messing said.

"I called a bunch of airlines until I found the best price," said Jeff Benza, business senior who is flying to Columbus, Ohio. He bought a round-trip ticket with Delta Airlines for $148.

Travel agencies are an easy way for students to find out about lower fares. While most airlines advertise low fares to certain destinations, the travel agents have computer systems that allow them to see all airlines at once.

"There's no advance notice as to when they will occur," said Barbara Donohue, travel agent at Speedway Travel, 2737 E. Speedway Blvd. "Sometimes there are two or three a month, then not another for two or three months."

The airlines agree that students need to research air prices before deciding on a ticket. The low fare tickets are often to places where few people fly.

"In many cases, the fares are based on booking numbers. Once we generate enough bookings, the fare returns to normal prices," said Michael Mitchell, manager of corporate communications at America West.

Mitchell said airlines know and can match prices immediately when other airlines lower fares.

"It's a very competitive field, matching prices," Mitchell said.

While fare wars are one way students can afford air travel, Donohue said students need to find out about stipulations and restrictions.

"Any lower fares have restrictions," said Donohue. "Some are non-refundable, others have to be ticketed (paid) within 24 hours. And 14-day advanced notice does not mean to wait until 14 days before you are going to fly."

Benza said, "I have to fly only on a weekday and have to go for more than three days. I also fly to Atlanta, then to Ohio."

Spring break is such a busy traveling season, most flights to popular destinations are not cheaper, said Donohue.

Mitchell said the lower prices depend on number of seats filled, not on when the travel season is busiest.

"Right now bookings are healthy, " said Mitchell. "Depending on when your spring break falls, you might get a deal."