IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

How Do Incumbents Respond to the Threat of Entry? Evidence from the Major Airlines

This paper examines how incumbents respond to the threat of entry of competitors, as distinguished from their response to competitors’ actual entry. It uses a case study from the passenger airline industry—specifically, the evolution of Southwest Airlines’ route network—to identify particular routes where the probability of future entry rises abruptly. When Southwest begins operating in airports on both sides of a route but not the route itself, this dramatically raises the chance they will start flying that route in the near future. We examine the pricing of the incumbents on threatened routes in the period surrounding such events. We find that incumbents cut fares significantly when threatened by Southwest’s entry into their routes. This is true even after controlling in several ways for airport-specific operating costs. The response of incumbents seems to be limited only to the threatened route itself, and not to routes out of nearby competitor airports where Southwest does not operate (e.g., fares drop on routes from Chicago Midway but not Chicago O’Hare). The largest responses appear to be restricted to routes that were concentrated beforehand. Incumbents do experience short-run increases in their passenger loads concurrent with these fare cuts. This is consistent with theories implying incumbents will try to generate some longer-term loyalty among current customers before the entry of a new competitor. We examine evidence relating this demand-building motive to frequent flyer programs and find suggestive evidence in favor of this notion. There is only weak evidence that incumbents increase capacity on the routes.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by NET Institute in its series Working Papers with number 04-04.

in new window

Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2004
Date of revision: Dec 2004
Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:0404
Contact details of provider: Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. 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.
  2. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1982. "Limit Pricing and Entry under Incomplete Information: An Equilibrium Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(2), pages 443-59, March.
  3. Berry, Steven T, 1992. "Estimation of a Model of Entry in the Airline Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(4), pages 889-917, July.
  4. Gustavo E. Bamberger & Dennis W. Carlton & Lynette R. Neumann, 2001. "An Empirical Investigation of the Competitive Effects of Domestic Airline Alliances," NBER Working Papers 8197, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Jan K. Brueckner & Nichola J. Dyer & Pablo T. Spiller, 1992. "Fare Determination in Airline Hub-and-Spoke Networks," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 23(3), pages 309-333, Autumn.
  6. Klemperer, Paul D, 1987. "Entry Deterrence in Markets with Consumer Switching Costs," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(388a), pages 99-117, Supplemen.
  7. Steven A. Morrison, 2001. "Actual, Adjacent, and Potential Competition Estimating the Full Effect of Southwest Airlines," Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, London School of Economics and University of Bath, vol. 35(2), pages 239-256, May.
  8. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:106:y:1991:i:4:p:1237-66 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Avinash Dixit, 1979. "A Model of Duopoly Suggesting a Theory of Entry Barriers," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 20-32, Spring.
  10. Christopher Mayer & Todd Sinai, 2002. "Network Effects, Congestion Externalities, and Air Traffic Delays: Or Why All Delays Are Not Evil," NBER Working Papers 8701, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Severin Borenstein, 1989. "Hubs and High Fares: Dominance and Market Power in the U.S. Airline Industry," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 20(3), pages 344-365, Autumn.
  12. Christopher Mayer & Todd Sinai, 2003. "Network Effects, Congestion Externalities, and Air Traffic Delays: Or Why Not All Delays Are Evil," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1194-1215, September.
  13. A. M. Spence, 1981. "The Learning Curve and Competition," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 12(1), pages 49-70, Spring.
  14. Hurdle, Gloria J, et al, 1989. "Concentration, Potential Entry, and Performance in the Airline Industry," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(2), pages 119-39, December.
  15. Severin Borenstein, 1992. "The Evolution of U.S. Airline Competition," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(2), pages 45-73, Spring.
  16. Robert D. Cairns & John W. Galbraith, 1990. "Artificial Compatibility, Barriers to Entry, and Frequent-Flyer Programs," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 23(4), pages 807-16, November.
  17. Reiss, Peter C & Spiller, Pablo T, 1989. "Competition and Entry in Small Airline Markets," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(2), pages S179-202, October.
  18. Bailey, Elizabeth E, 1981. "Contestability and the Design of Regulatory and Antitrust Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(2), pages 178-83, May.
  19. Aghion, Philippe & Bolton, Patrick, 1987. "Contracts as a Barrier to Entry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 388-401, June.
  20. Michael D. Whinston & Scott C. Collins, 1992. "Entry and Competitive Structure in Deregulated Airline Markets: An Event Study Analysis of People Express," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 23(4), pages 445-462, Winter.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:0404. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Nicholas Economides)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.