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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Severin Borenstein & Nancy L. Rose, 1991. "Competition and Price Dispersion in the U.S. Airline Industry," NBER Working Papers 3785, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3785 Note: IO
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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.
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    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.
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    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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