Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lesson in Tax Incidence

Apparently FAA taxes are temporarily suspended since congress has failed to act on renewing them. And it appears airlines are charging rates as if they were still collecting the tax. Any student of economics will recognize this as an issue of tax incidence. The fact that the price to the consumer remains unchanged, suggests that the incidence of the tax fell entirely on the airlines (suppliers). Rather than being angry this is something to be happy about. It means that consumers weren't harmed by the FAA taxes in the first place, and it also means demand for flying is highly elastic. The quote at the end of the block below suggests this might be true:
Several aviation taxes expired after midnight Friday when Congress failed to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, which collects the revenue. The suspended taxes could save passengers 10% to 15% on their ticket prices, but most U.S. carriers have boosted fares to the levels ticket prices would have been with the taxes still in place, allowing the airlines to take in roughly an extra $25 million a day, says Rick Seaney of FareCompare.com.

As of Tuesday, only Spirit and Alaska seemed to be bucking the trend, Seaney says.

Frequent fliers have noticed.

"While I respect any business' right to set prices as they see fit, this is another example of the airline 'gotcha game,'" says Steven Gordon, a sales manager who lives in Virginia Beach. "It is getting to the point that I feel better about buying a used car than an airline ticket."

1 comment:

joe said...

>The fact that the price to the consumer remains unchanged, suggests that the incidence of the tax fell entirely on the airlines (suppliers). …. and it also means demand for flying is highly elastic.


I would think that the supply of airline seats is relatively inelastic in the short run, given that flying demand is highly elastic any perceived short term reduction to costs would not prompt airlines increase the supply.