Analyst says Internet Pricing To Postpone Airline Recovery

Despite inherent cost advantages in distributing inventory via the Internet, carriers likely will see persistently depressed revenues as Web fares keep yields and average fare levels down, according to J.P. Morgan Securities analyst Jamie Baker.

“Near-perfect pricing knowledge no longer belongs to just a handful of malleable corporate travel managers, the huddled masses have it too,” Baker wrote in a research note to investors this morning. “And from the airlines` point of view, knowledge in the hands of consumers—particularly business travelers—is a dangerous thing.”

Baker noted that direct Internet and online agency channels, which typically offer heavily discounted fares, now account for more than 20 percent of industry revenue. “The Internet,” Baker added, “is therefore expected to significantly retard any improvement in industry pricing that would otherwise accompany a strong economy or gradual relaxation of corporate travel restraint.”