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Competition and Price Dispersion in the U.S. Airline Industry

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  • Severin Borenstein
  • Nancy L. Rose

Abstract

This papers analyzes dispersion in the prices that an airline charges to different customers on the same route. Such variation in airlines fares is substantial: the expected absolute difference in fares between two of an airline's passengers on a route averages thirty-six percent of the airline's average ticket price on the route. The pattern of price dispersion that we find does not seem to be explained solely by cost differences. Dispersion is higher on more competitive routes, possibly reflecting a pattern of discrimination against customers who are less willing to switch to alternative flights or airlines. We argue that the data support an explanation based on theories of price discrimination in monopolistically competitive industries.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3785.

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Date of creation: Jul 1991
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Publication status: published as Journal of Political Economy, August 1994, 102 (4): 653-683
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3785

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  1. Gale, Ian L & Holmes, Thomas J, 1993. "Advance-Purchase Discounts and Monopoly Allocation of Capacity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 135-46, March.
  2. Spence, A Michael, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-74, August.
  3. Dahlby, Bev & West, Douglas S, 1986. "Price Dispersion in an Automobile Insurance Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(2), pages 418-38, April.
  4. Holmes, Thomas J, 1989. "The Effects of Third-Degree Price Discrimination in Oligopoly," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 244-50, March.
  5. Salop, Steven, 1977. "The Noisy Monopolist: Imperfect Information, Price Dispersion and Price Discrimination," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(3), pages 393-406, October.
  6. Varian, Hal R., 1989. "Price discrimination," Handbook of Industrial Organization, in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 10, pages 597-654 Elsevier.
  7. Shepard, Andrea, 1991. "Price Discrimination and Retail Configuration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(1), pages 30-53, February.
  8. Pratt, John W & Wise, David A & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1979. "Price Differences in Almost Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 189-211, May.
  9. J. A. Hausman & W. E. Taylor, 1980. "Panel Data and Unobservable Individual Effects," Working papers 255, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
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