Pricing Games on the Daytime Eastbound TATL

Everyone knows that when you go from Europe to America, it’s a daytime flight. And coming to Europe from America, it’s an overnight flight, which from the East Coast can be quite a short redeye. There are a very small number of exceptions to this rule for flights to London. Both BA and Virgin have a daytime eastbound flight from each of Boston and JFK into London. United runs daytime flights from Newark and Dulles. Air Canada do the same from Toronto. All of these are 8-9am departures for an 7:30-9pm arrival in London.
(Norwegian also have a JFK to Gatwick flight that is a daytime one, but it is far more inconveniently timed as it is not scheduled to arrive until 11:30pm)

For this post though I am just concerned with the New York to London market. I ended up being re-booked onto the United daytime flight from Newark on my way home last week due to weather delays on the previous day that stopped me getting to an overnight flight across the Atlantic, and found that the jet lag was significantly lessened from not spending the previous night barely sleeping in Economy class. So I have resolved to on future trips, where possible, utilise the daytime flights.

However, as a committed star-alliance flyer for revenue tickets, for the benefits of Aegean status, United’s pricing on this route troubles me – as they charge more for the daytime flight than the overnight ones. All the examples I found, United were not allowing their lowest fares to book onto the direct flight in the daytime from Newark. For example, a random off-peak date that all the legacies are price matching their lowest fares at £279, show United want more for the daytime flight.

daytime united

And substantially more at that – a nearly 50% premium on the overnight flights. I can, on the face of it, see why this could simply reflect demand. Economy customers prefer the day flight because it is far more comfortable than an overnight, and business class customers are less likely to either want the daytime being taken up by being on the plane, and are less willing to pay to get a flat bed when the flight is not overnight. It is easy to see the logic that the airline needs the economy cabin to produce more revenue on this flight and there are reasons why it could also produce that extra revenue. So if this is the case, how are the other Joint Ventures pricing this route on that day?

Huh. So both BA and Virgin are not asking for more to be on the daytime flight. Interesting.

[BA’s website displays the cost per leg, but the combo of the inbound at £76 with the lowest cost outbound also prices the ticket at £279]

The counter logic to the daytime flight having more demand is that for economy travellers too, the loss of a full day to travel rather than a night is more problematic than the Jet lag.. which I can believe to be true but then it begs the question why doesn’t that apply to United too? Why do United feel they can get away with pricing higher?

My only theory is it being related to United having a different core customer to BA and Virgin. Whenever comparing the 3 JVs, the lack of a UK based airline in the United/Star-Alliance venture, should mean that compared to BA/AA and Virgin/Delta they have a greater percentage of their customers being US-based. The flight time preferences for US vs UK based customers could be sufficiently different to justify the pricing changes but it isn’t obvious that should be the case.

A mystery that only the internal data can solve..


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