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

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  • Borenstein, Severin
  • Rose, Nancy L

Abstract

The authors study dispersion in the prices an airline charges to different passengers on the same route. This variation in fares is substantial: the expected absolute difference in fares between two passengers on a route is 36 percent of the airline's average ticket price. The pattern of observed price dispersion cannot easily be explained by cost differences alone. Dispersion increases on routes with more competition or lower flight density, consistent with discrimination based on customers' willingness to switch to alternative airlines or flights. The authors argue that the data support models of price discrimination in monopolistically competitive markets. Copyright 1994 by University of Chicago Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Borenstein, Severin & Rose, Nancy L, 1994. "Competition and Price Dispersion in the U.S. Airline Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 653-683, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:102:y:1994:i:4:p:653-83
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hausman, Jerry A & Taylor, William E, 1981. "Panel Data and Unobservable Individual Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(6), pages 1377-1398, November.
    2. Shepard, Andrea, 1991. "Price Discrimination and Retail Configuration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(1), pages 30-53, February.
    3. John W. Pratt & David A. Wise & Richard Zeckhauser, 1979. "Price Differences in almost Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(2), pages 189-211.
    4. 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 418-438, April.
    5. 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.
    6. Steven Salop, 1977. "The Noisy Monopolist: Imperfect Information, Price Dispersion and Price Discrimination," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 44(3), pages 393-406.
    7. Holmes, Thomas J, 1989. "The Effects of Third-Degree Price Discrimination in Oligopoly," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 244-250, March.
    8. 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 135-146, March.
    9. Prescott, Edward C, 1975. "Efficiency of the Natural Rate," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(6), pages 1229-1236, December.
    10. Michael Spence, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-374.
    11. Katz, Michael L, 1984. "Price Discrimination and Monopolistic Competition," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(6), pages 1453-1471, November.
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