The fare situation given in the starter thread as well as the MAN
example illustrates the dysfunctional state of airline pricing. It's an extreme form of bait-and-switch. Such pricing schemes, as practiced by the "legacy" airlines, have totally confused any concept of what fare is fair. Due to such folly, customers, including the airlines' "bread and butter" business travelers, have predictably come to see equitable fares as a ripoff to be avoided and below-cost fares as the norm to be expected. Virtually anyone and everyone would agree that airline pricing is absurdly irrational -- try as they may, no network/cartel airline yet has offered a credible explanation for their pricing shenanigans that have come back to bite them. While the "legacy" airlines continue to grasp at straws in their never-ending search for non-culprits to blame for their ongoing dilemma, their managements fail to see the obvious: "it's the pricing stupid!"
It's not that the money-losing U.S. network airlines have no pricing power as they claim; they totally fail to practice any modicum of pricing discipline. The moment they see advance bookings fall off, they panic and offer senseless loss-leader fares like DL
's $164 offer to D.C. At the same time, they hope against hope that they will be able to fleece a few hapless business travelers for up to 10 times more -- for a seat in the same Y cabin on the same flights. That scheme worked for a short time, and predictably came back to deal the newtwork airlines a lethal blow -- months before 9/11/01 deepened their self-inflicted woes.
In reality, the "outrageous" $264 fare offered by DL
is an exceptionally generous offer; it only seems high because DL
and their fellow "legacy" airlines have confused the pricing issue (DL's $164 bait-and-switch offer is one example) to the point that they have forfeited
their pricing power by making a total mockery of equitable pricing with the irrational, egregious disparities between lowest/highest fares paid by pax on the same flight/same cabin/same day -- and they've put it on the internet for all to see.
Until the newtwork/cartel airlines reform their pricing to something based on the premise of "value pricing" their woes will continue. They got away with their absurd pricing schemes for a short time in the late 1990s due to a convergence of anomalies, but now they are "paying the piper" and will continue to do so until 1) they reform their pricing in a meaningful way or 2) they cease to exist.