A Quick Word about “Low Fare Airlines”

With the Southwest/AirTran announcement yesterday I’ve seen a whole bunch of articles referring to Southwest and AirTran as “low fare airlines.”  No doubt Southwest has been in the low fare game forever.  But the airline world has changed enough that in reality, every airline is a low fare airline.  The only real difference is on the high end of fares.  Legacy carriers typically have higher walkup fares than so-called “low fare airlines,” but with any advance purchase, Southwest is roughly in-line with everyone else (except when they’re more expensive).

Yes, we can argue about whether fees should be included, etc etc etc.  But rare is the route with a so-called “low fare airline” where legacy airlines are priced any higher.

That all said, Spirit and Allegiant truly are low fare airlines, offering prices markedly lower than competitors (and competitors, if they have any on that route, generally don’t bother matching).  But I just thought it was worth pointing out that nearly every article yesterday about the merger referred to lowfare airlines, even though every airline offers $300 round trips coast-to-coast — those are low fares, indeed.


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  1. The difference might be that low fare airlines have low fares and make money. While legacy airlines are wannabe low fare airlines; they have low fares but lose money. Anyone investing their 401K money in a company that sells something for less than it actually costs [year after year after year] is crazy.

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