Philadelphia has always been a USAir town and of course now an American Airlines town. This is both good and bad. Unlike many, I actually like American. Of course, I’ve had a share of bad experiences, but overall the airline has been good to me. However, I couldn’t help but notice how high fares are to Europe out of Philadelphia.

The reason for the high fares is the sore lack of competition on trans-Atlantic routes. In the map below, the blue routes are those that American operates with no competition. The red routes are those that American competes over with other airlines.

a map of the world with different countries/regions

Lack of competition creates an unfortunate paradigm, especially for those of us based in Philadelphia. Let’s compare airfare to Europe from New York. For the purposes of this example, I’ll use New York to Rome, non-stop, on a random date in June.

Prices from NYC-area airports:

a screenshot of a calendar

Prices from Philadelphia:

a screenshot of a calendar

As you can see, flying out of the New York area to Rome can save you 50% or more as opposed to flying out of Philadelphia. This is primarily due to the intense competition in the New York area for this route. If I’m not mistaken, five airlines fly non-stop to Rome — American, Delta, Alitalia, United, and Norwegian.

Only American flies direct to Rome from Philadelphia. This pattern is similar on Philadelphia’s other trans-Atlantic routes. Philadelphia does have some competition on European routes like London, Frankfurt, and Dublin with British Airways, Lufthansa, and (soon) Aer Lingus.

According to a report, American occupies 59% of the gates at PHL, based on a 2008 leasing agreement. I’m certainly no expert in airport lease administration so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that once a lease is up the airlines have to negotiate with the airport to keep/add gates. This negotiation almost always includes some sort of financial commitment by the airline to assist with airport maintenance, marketing, etc.

Though it’s encouraging to see new airlines like Aer Lingus and Icelandair joining the PHL family, I can’t help but be pessimistic that any real competition will come to fruition.



Featured image courtesy of Oliver Holzbauer.