If it’s changed 2,472,916 times since January, no wonder we need a site like Yapta

By | May 13th, 2010

The most volatile airline ticket prices in America are between Atlanta and Las Vegas, a new survey by Yapta has found. Fares between those cities changed an astonishing 2,472,916 times since the beginning of the year. That’s roughly once every six seconds.

No wonder ticket prices drive us nuts. And no wonder we turn to sites like Yapta to track fares.

No human can do it.

Here are the top 10 domestic city pairs with the most volatile airfare prices this year. This data is across all flights (one way, round trip, multi-city) and seat classes.

1. Atlanta (ATL) to Las Vegas (LAS) – 2,472,916 price changes
2. New York (JFK) to Las Vegas (LAS) – 2,412,759 price changes
3. New Jersey (EWR) to Las Vegas (LAS) – 2,377,668 price changes
4. Chicago (ORD) to Las Vegas (LAS) – 2,215,994 price changes
5. New York (JFK) to San Francisco (SFO) – 1,959,873 price changes
6. San Francisco (SFO) to New York (JFK) – 1,862,270 price changes
7. Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL) – 1,740,380 price changes
8. New Jersey (EWR) to Orlando (MCO) – 1,725,727 price changes
9. Los Angeles (LAX) to New York (JFK) – 1,641,397 price changes
10. Boston (BOS) to Chicago (ORD) – 1,490,271 price changes

And here are the least volatile city pairs …

1. Ablene, TX (ABL) to Las Vegas (LAS) -1 price change
2. Clarksberg, WV (CKB) to Portland, ME (PWM) – 1 price change
3. Missoula, MT (MSO) to Kona, HI (KOA) – 1 price change
4. Richmond, VA (RIC) to Louisville, KY (SDF) – 2 price changes
5. Pittsburgh (PIT) to Gulfport, MS (GPT) – 2 price changes
6. Charleston, WV (CRW) to Charlotte, NC (CLT) – 2 price changes
7. Fort Lauderdale, FL (FLL) to Covington, KY / Cincinnati (CVG) – 2 price changes
8. Columbia, SC (CAE) to Louisville, KY (SDF) – 3 price changes
9. Los Angeles (LAX) to Shreveport, LA (SHV) – 3 price changes
10. Duluth, MN (DLH) to Norfolk, VA (ORF) – 3 price changes

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I asked my contact at Yapta to explain the numbers a little:

I really wasn’t surprised that Las Vegas turned up in the top four most volatile city pairs. It being one of the more popular U.S. destinations, we have a lot of users tracking flights to Vegas.

You’ll notice that a lot of the other city pairs are also very popular U.S. destinations, so there’s lots of airfare tracking activity around these markets. That said, a number of major airlines also serve these key markets, so pricing is very competitive and therefore more volatile.

So how do you adjust your fare purchases based on this list?

Well, if you’re flying from one popular U.S. markets another popular U.S. market, the numbers illustrate that it pays to track prices.

Fares move up and down quite rapidly between these particular destinations.

For example, let’s say that you live in New York and you know you’ll be visiting Las Vegas for the 4th of July. Based on these numbers, I would use Yapta today to start tracking prices on the specific flights you want. That way you would almost be assured you’ll see a price drop that you can take advantage of.

As I review these lists, I have an even more basic question: Why is this allowed?

If grocery store prices changed once every six seconds, people would be rioting in the streets. In fact, it’s hard to think of any other consumer product with such volatile prices. Even gas prices don’t change this frequently.

And so I wonder — who is letting this happen, again? And should it be happening?

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All the free marketers out there, what say you?

(Photo of Hartsfield skylight: John.P/Flickr Creative Commons)

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