The deadly train crash in Philadelphia has created chaos for travelers with plans to use the train service in the Northeast this week. The latest announcement from Amtrak indicates that its direct service between New York City and Philadelphia will remain suspended through Monday, May 18. That means anyone with plans to ride the rails to or from those cities, or trying to connect from Baltimore or Washington to anywhere north of Philadelphia, has had to look for options outside of Amtrak’s main line.
For many business travelers, the only other speedy, convenient, and altogether viable alternative to Amtrak is flying. And recent reports indicating that airlines have been gouging travelers with exorbitant last-minute flight prices in the Northeast confirm the perspective that airlines are opportunistic and greedy.
The (NY) Daily News reported that round-trip flights from New York-JFK to Washington-Dulles have been running between $700 to $1,100 this weekend (Friday departure, Sunday return), with some tickets hitting upwards of $1,700. These are seats in coach, mind you, on one-hour flights that normally cost $100 when purchased in advance, and perhaps $600 at the last minute.
“It’s opportunism,” George Hobica, who runs the airfare deal monitoring site Airfare Watchdog, told the Daily News. “The airlines know it’s a big business route and they can charge what they want.”
As of Friday morning, the least expensive round trip from JFK to Dulles that departs Friday and returns Sunday was priced at just under $1,100 on Delta Airlines, according to flight search aggregator Kayak.com.
Yet while it may look like there’s some price gouging occurring on this specific route between the New York and Washington, D.C. areas, airfares remain reasonable on other routes. Another quick search showed, for instance, that round trips between Newark airport and Dulles from Friday to Sunday are available at the last minute for $449 on United.
What seems to have happened is that there is very little availability on what few flights there are between JFK and Dulles this weekend, and as always, when flights are nearly sold out, airfare prices skyrocket. But with a little flexibility, it looks possible to book a flight in the Northeast without getting completely gouged—even at the last minute, even after the deadly Amtrak crash.