Variable Airfares become a Gamble

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In Las Vegas, gambling may expand beyond casinos to sky travel. Allegiant Air — a Nevada-based carrier — expressed interest in launching “variable tickets,” or airfare costs that rise or fall according to jet fuel prices. The discounted tickets would sell alongside traditional fixed-cost options. Those feeling lucky would receive cash back if fuel prices fall by takeoff — or, if prices soar, they’d pay up to a pre-disclosed cap.


Allegiant wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation suggesting the alternative to a new consumer protection rule that prohibits raising ticket costs after purchase. ”It would provide (consumers) another option for potential substantial savings on their trip costs and would be clearly disclosed and explained prior to any purchase,” the airline said in the letter.

An Allegiant representative said the idea is “too premature” to discuss. For now, the airline is remaining “flexible” for future developments. Ongoing political turmoil in the Middle East makes travel costs hard to predict, said Raymond Kollau of ”This is an innovative way for (Allegiant) to pass some of its risk in fuel cost to its customers, since the airline does not hedge its fuel,” he said.

The uncertainly of airfare gambling would likely alarm passengers, Kollau said. Booking a plane ticket isn’t as recreational as rolling dice. “Many consumers wouldn’t want to incorporate this kind of insecurity in their ticket, especially since hardly anyone can make an educated guess about the development of oil prices,” he said. “Although, for some, it may be a way to start their Las Vegas trip in style.”


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