Wait or Buy? The Strategic Consumer: Pricing and Profit Implications
Anderson, Chris K.; Wilson, JG
Using tools from operations research, airlines have, for many years, taken a strategic approach to pricing the seats available on a particular flight based on demand forecasts and information. The result of this approach is that the same seat on the same flight is often offered at different fares at different times. Setting of these prices using yield-management approaches is a major activity for many airlines and is well studied in the literature. However, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the existence of pricing strategies used by airlines. In addition, the availability of airline travel pricing on the Internet affords consumers the opportunity to behave more strategically when making purchase decisions. The onset of the information age makes it possible for an informed consumer or a third party, such as a travel agent, to obtain demand information similar to that used by the airlines. In particular, it is possible for consumers or travel agents to purchase historical data or to obtain it by monitoring the seats that are available at various prices for a given flight. If a consumer understands the pricing strategy and has access to demand information, he/she may decide to defer purchase of a ticket because they believe that a cheaper seat may yet become available. If consumers were to make use of this information to make such strategic purchasing decisions, what would be the impact on airline revenues? The purpose of this paper is to investigate these impacts. This work indicates that use of standard yield management approaches to pricing by airlines can result in significantly reduced revenues when buyers are using an informed and strategic approach to purchasing. Therefore, when airlines are setting or presenting prices, they should investigate the effect of strategic purchasing on their decisions.
consumer behavior; pricing; airlines; decision making
Required Publisher Statement: © Palgrave-MacMillan. Final version published as: Anderson, C. K., & Wilson, J. G. (2003). Wait or buy? The strategic consumer: Pricing and profit implications. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 54(3), 299-306.