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Like The Onion, but not funny…

I’ll admit, this sounds ridiculous – but I think you’ll soon agree: airlines don’t want people in middle America to travel abroad. The smoking gun? Flight prices. Exceptional deals to Asia and Europe dot the coastal cities of the United States on a weekly basis, yet flight deals abroad for those in the middle are practically non existent. There can only be one explanation.

In case you’re not familiar with my work – I spend most of my days finding shockingly low flight deals. Like $149 one way tickets to Europe, $1300 round trip business class to China and everything in between. Those two deals, were just in the last two days. Whenever I find a deal, I attempt to see how many cities it’s valid from, to get as many people as possible interested. In almost every case, the deals are available from at least a selection of: New York, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington DC and San Francisco. Occasionally, Fort Lauderdale or Chicago will grace the list of deal cities.

Whenever we publish these deals, they’re often met with one of two reactions: “oh my, this is incredible – thank you” – or “ugh! there are never deals from ______”. The middle of the country hardly, if ever, gets flight deals anywhere. In fact, prices are often 3x or more what you’ll find in most coastal hub cities. If your first thought is: well that’s because there aren’t any direct flights – that’s a fallacy. There are international direct flights from Cincinnati, Denver, Dallas, Atlanta, Cleveland, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Detroit, Las Vegas, Houston and more. It’s just that airlines gouge customers the most in places where they have the greatest strongholds. Look at Atlanta. Delta controls the market with such mechanical grip, hardly any other airline can find a take off slot, let alone compete. Atlanta virtually (never) sees flight deals.

A Simple example.

Do airlines truly not want red state travelers to venture out to other continents? No, we don’t actually believe that. But for a group pretending they absolutely do want people to discover the world, they’re doing a great job of making it 3x more expensive (or even worse) for people in these states to experience places and countries far beyond – than anyone living in a major “blue state” coastal city. Search for yourself…

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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16 Comments

  1. Welcome to the fascist free market wonderland, where the free market is not free. Bad service, dismal planes, and a don’t care attitude as what makes the american airlines the best in free world. /s Love it or leave it I say, except for those in the midwest. Besides, most americans I meet in other countries are not worth hanging out with. I didn’t fly eight thousand miles to talk about american movies or culture.

    1. Ha, ha, ha, so glad Tony Mike got to post his “pedantic rant”. LOL Wonderful! I believe this solidifies your choice of worthwhile blog postings. When you attract such meaningful commentary as you did here you’re really wowing the crowds…

      So, I know the idea of market forces are messy and scary but supply and demand explains it all (as Gus mentions). Why even intimate (even via The Onion) there is some political motive?

      I’d suggest another post somewhere on how bad Brexit is to assuage any sour feelings…

    1. Perhaps there would be more demand if the “too expensive” perception was negated. At those prices, I’m not going anywhere.

  2. Funny and interesting but some of those cities aren’t really all that “red” like Denver or Detroit for example.
    With my home airport being MCI in the middle of the country there are rarely good deals even from DFW, ORD, etc. Some of the LCC’s are starting to make appearances in fly over country so it could change this space. What I wonder is how long it will take Jetblue to see that they are missing out on a big chunk of the USA.

    1. As usual, you are pretty much spot on. I don’t mean to lump Denver or Detroit in, but just easier to illustrate the idea.

      I really think if JetBlue launches international mint service and operates using more precision, point to point ULR smaller birds they could make a serious impact on this strategy. Cheers Dan.

  3. The other common sense answer would be the Red states airports that you point out are all dominated by a single carrier. HOUSTON Dallas Phoenix Atlanta. Charlotte Minn. and Detroit . Those airports have no incentive to offer more competitive international fares like New York LA Seattle. DC. San Fran. For the most part that is a result of the “business friendly” policies of said cities. Why does American need to drop their international prices out of Dallas when there is virtually no other choice?

  4. If I lived in the midwest (where I was born), I would happily pay 3x as much to leave. After being in southern California for 4 decades, it takes a much higher incentive to get me to go somewhere else, hence the need to make the fares more enticing.

    I’m not entirely serious about that, but not entirely joking, either.

  5. It would be really funny if this were true. I can just imagine some good old boys chugging a can of Bud on the streets of the UAE. On a similar note, many moons ago while skiing in Utah, I noticed a shop selling t-shirts that said “If God wanted Texans to ski he would have made BS white”.

  6. Perhaps the only correlation is whether red states are OK with having their major airports dominated by a single airline. The best correlation is market domination by a single airline and even if there is, whether there is an alternative at a nearby airport. Despite the high taxes and high cost of living in NYC, that’s where I’ve found the cheapest fares abroad and domestically. Why? You can fly out of JFK, La Guardia, and Newark. In that market, no single airline dominates like Delta does in Detroit and Atlanta, relatively low cost of living but very high airfares. It has nothing to do with blue vs. red.

  7. Thanks for deleting my comments that contradicted your click bait title. Last time I read your blog. Sad

    1. I didn’t? It was flagged as pending by our spam filter because of your slightly pedantic rant. I don’t monitor comments on a moment by moment basis. Believe it or not I was eating dinner and carrying on living my life without too much worry. Nonetheless you’re welcome to never read again. As you say – it’s a free country 🙄

  8. The coastal cities are international gateways and have more airlines flying to them = more competition. That’s why it is cheaper. Its’ not some grand conspiracy.

    That’s why flights like DFW-HKG, ORD-HKG are way more expensive than LAX-HKG. How many airlines fly LAX-HKG vs any other North American gateway?

  9. Any difference from Madrid registered British Airways and the way they gouge anyone resident in the UK stupid enough to book with them without checking reviews / the competition?
    I guess the US carriers at least have a higher degree of competition keeping them more in line. A shame UK airport landing slots are at such a premium in the SE of the nation.

  10. Haha! I’m in Charlotte, NC, a coastal state, but AA loves to gouge us here. I have never flown internationally from here. I usually end up having to fly to JFK to get any kind of deal. Quite frustrating!!! CLT to London is $1400 r/t in economy on a good day and a flight to Munich where LH also flies is $1300 r/t in economy.

  11. You guys all have an American point of view, but international flights are more profitable if they can attract people from each side. And where do you think foreign tourists want to fly ? Charlotte ? Detroit ? Atlanta ?… No, they want to fly to New York, Miami, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Just look where European low cost airlines are flying to in USA… That’s why there is more competition and better deals to/from east and west cost…

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