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Amid swine flu scare, airlines slash Mexico fares

Posted by Paul Makishima, Globe Assistant Sunday Editor  April 30, 2009 10:03 AM

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With tour companies both here and abroad and cruise lines either halting flights and port calls or liberalizing cancellation policies, Bloomberg News is reporting that the airline industry is having a fire sale to Mexico.

Delta Air Lines Inc., American Airlines and other U.S. carriers are slashing Mexico fares to as little as $260 round trip as demand dries up because of the swine flu outbreak.
An American ticket to Mexico City from Dallas/Fort Worth sold for $260 yesterday from about $500 recently, said Tom Parsons, founder of travel website BestFares.com. Delta is charging $300 between Atlanta and Cancun, a reduction of at least $100 from a few weeks ago ...
“If you’re paying more than $300 right now to anywhere in Mexico, you’re nuts,” said Rick Seaney, chief executive officer of ticket research firm FareCompare.com. “This isn’t the busy season for them anyway. But who wants to go there right now when these governments are basically telling you not to?”

The question is: Why aren't the airlines canceling? On its face it seems odd, particularly given the ailing condition of the industry. Why would you want to fly empty planes into a place where many people are afraid to go?
In its report, Bloomberg reported that despite the lower fares the carriers weren't exactly inundated with callers looking to cash in:

Delta, American, UAL Corp.’s United Airlines, Continental Airlines Inc. and US Airways Group Inc. have all said that they’ve seen more passengers wanting to cancel or postpone trips to Mexico. They wouldn’t give details.

The AP is reporting that "airlines are flying some nearly empty planes from the United States to Mexico,'' and its report suggests a reason why more flights aren't being canceled:

Airlines sometimes have to fly planes with few passengers in order to position the aircraft for return flights, and that could be happening now. "The flights coming back north are full," said Continental spokesman Dave Messing.

Another Continental representative, Julie King, said that trimming schedules would not be out of the question. "We're constantly monitoring the situation and will be prepared to adjust our schedules as necessary while ensuring that we provide return service to customers in affected cities.''
This is significant coming from Continental, which is the US industry leader in flights to Mexico, with American and US Airways second and third, respectively. Today, for instance, Continental has 66 flights to Mexico, American has 42, and US Airways 24.
Analysts say that other carriers are likely looking at Continental to see what adjustments it is making.


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3 comments so far...
  1. I arrived in Cancun on Monday in a USAir 737 carrying 27 passengers. I haven't seen any big exodus out of this part of Mexuco yet, but folks are pretty nervous. I think that the major airlines will work together to move passengers out of here if the Mexican government fails to contain the flu outbreak.

    Posted by Perry D April 30, 09 11:19 PM
  1. I have a flight booked with Sun county airlines for a family vacation in just 3 weeks time however, this airline compaby must be the worse airline to exsist in the US as it has not yet allowed me to cancel my ticket ( only accepting upto the 16th May , im the 21st ) They must know more regarding the swine flu strain than the WHO. Further to that and bearing in mind I have 2 small children under 5 they will not refund my ticket either. I am on a visa in the US from the UK and it expires in july this year. What will I do with a creditnote for $1200 to use if I wont be legally allowed to be in the country in the time period being offered eventually ,

    Posted by L Illingworth May 1, 09 11:53 AM
  1. Concentration camps for living creatures is never a good thing. This case is another proof.

    It is time to leave out the meat and other animal products. Check out websites like http://www.MeatAlternatives.org and see how many options (healthier ones) we humans have.

    Right now, we are slaughtering our only plant. Let's wake up before it will be too late.

    Posted by Donald Watson May 1, 09 11:55 AM
 
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