Transatlantic air fares, Why so high?

Tickets PassportI recently checked on September-October air fares from Houston to London. In the old days, fares during the “shoulder season” would drop appreciably from summer’s peak prices. Sometime, you could also save $100 or so by buying a ticket by a roundabout route (e.g via Minneapolis), or leaving and arriving at inconvenient times. No longer. Even off-season, you better get used to paying $1,100 round trip to London (or Paris or Frankfurt). Air miles, round trip, from Houston to London are 9,646, so each mile flown is costing 11.6 cents.

However, if I was to buy a ticket from Houston to Moscow (11,816 air miles round trip) or Istanbul (12,742 miles), I would pay only 6.4  or 6.6 cents per mile. By traveling further, I am paying less ($761 and $843)! This is because, for some time now, all the airlines flying the well-traveled routes across the North Atlantic have found that by using smaller planes, like the Boeing 777, they can fill the seats and make some money. Remember, that over half your ticket price goes to pay taxes and fees and does not stay with the airline, and the North Atlantic, with over 900 flights per day (east- and westbound combined), is the keenest area for competition.

Air China Boeing 747

Air China Boeing 747

Across the Pacific, the ticket prices are better. In addition to US Airlines, the three major Chinese Airlines (Air China, China Southern and China Eastern) that altogether  have over 1,000 planes in their fleets, fly larger Boeing 747 and are more inclined to drop prices to fill the increased number of seats. So, Houston to Hong Kong costs $1,055 round trip for 16,666 miles (8.3 cents per mile) and Houston to Bangkok costs $1,122 round trip for 18,468 miles (6.1 cents per miles). So, I am getting  70%+ more miles per dollar spent flying to Hong Kong from Houston, and almost double the miles flying to Bangkok. In May 2012, having got off a ship in Europe, I found it very little more expensive to fly the long way round, back to the USA via Los Angeles, than flying home across the Atlantic. I’m waiting for the promised day when discount Irish Airline Ryanair enters the North Atlantic market, when we can expect to see some low, low fares – at least to start with.



Jim Glendinning About Jim Glendinning

I am a Footloose Scot who has traveled to 136 countries. "I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." Robert Louis Stevenson
Read about Jim Glendinning and his book Footloose Scot: Travels In A Time Of Change

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