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I am wondering why the flight fee from PIT(Pittsburgh) to FLG Arizona is almost twice as the flight cost from PIT to Cancun, Mexico.

It totally doesn't make any sense to me. Any ideas why it is like that?

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    An airplane is not a taxi where you pay a fixed fare per miles to cover the cost of the gas and the driver and some profit. Cabs operate like that because there are many cabs for any given trip. With flights, your choices are way more restricted. – chx Dec 11 '16 at 1:37
  • @chx Yep, and taxis don't even operate that way except where regulations require a certain fare structure. Uber, for example, prices based on supply and demand (and with their fixed rate pricing in some cities now, you have basically no idea what defines their prices). In areas without taxi fare regulations, it can be a free for all negotiation: the driver is free to charge more because you look wealthy or because it's pouring rain and you look like you really need a cab, the kind of individualized pricing strategies the airlines dream they could apply. – Zach Lipton Dec 11 '16 at 10:24
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    By "flight fee", do you mean ticket price? – David Richerby Dec 11 '16 at 10:36
  • Because more people are more willing to pay more to get from PIT to FLG than from PIT to CUN. It is exactly that simple. (For clarity, the cost of operating the flight is a variable factor in pricing and not always a primary factor.) – Johns-305 Dec 11 '16 at 16:45
  • Aside from the market-based reasons given (Flagstaff is not really the same kind of destination) Cancun is actually much closer to PIT than FLG. About 4 hours flying time, similar to the time from Toronto, vs. 6 hours to FLG. For some reason Americans tend to think the US is a lot narrower than it is. Folks from Washington State thought we'd (from Toronto) come a long way to get to the Yucatan. I think < 4 hours nonstop vs. 13 hours with two stops. Similar price though! – Spehro Pefhany Dec 11 '16 at 20:15
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Because they think more people will pay more to fly to Flagstaff than Cancún. It's as simple as that: airlines set prices to maximize their profit.

In this case, Cancun is normally thought of as a budget leisure destination. The airline knows from long experience that many vacationers headed to Cancun will simply find another place to go if the flight is too expensive. They believe travelers to Flagstaff will pay more right now. Prices may be seasonal, especially for these destinations, and are based on supply and demand.

Competition also plays a role. The airline knows who flies between the cities, their prices, and how convenient their connections are, and they'll price accordingly. Multiple carriers competing aggressively on a route will typically drive prices down, while they generally remain high when few alternatives exist.

And when it comes to Flagstaff, there's no competition. Flagstaff is a small airport served only by one carrier, American Eagle, with a couple of flights a day to nearby Phoenix. The airline pretty much has you over a barrel because you have only a couple of choices: pay whatever they want to go to Flagstaff, fly to Phoenix (or an even further away airport) and make your way to Flagstaff some other way, travel by a less convenient method such as a bus or trains, give up and go someplace else entirely, or give up and don't travel at all. In contrast, you can get to Cancun through connections on several different airlines. American knows this, and will happily use its monopoly over flights to Flagstaff to charge you for the convenience of flying there rather than making you drive from a farther away airport.

But the real answer is that airline ticket prices don't make "sense" in the way you're trying to understand them. They cost as much as the airline thinks the market will bear in a way that maximizes their profit, not on a per-mile basis or other "logical" structure.

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  • You forgot about the Southwest Chief -- although it may take a while, it does service Flagstaff... – UnrecognizedFallingObject Dec 11 '16 at 6:30
  • @UnrecognizedFallingObject I genericized it, since I supposed you could find a bus or ride of Craigslist or otherwise make your way to Flagstaff in ways other than driving. – Zach Lipton Dec 11 '16 at 7:25
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It is called supply and demand. There is more competition going to Cancun hence lower more competitve airfares. Less competition gping to Flagstaff.

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It's basically "whatever the market will bear" with some important exceptions. Fare history for the city pair plays a role and helps predict the future. A carrier new to the route may lower the fare to attract business. Flagstaff has relatively few people, and by laws of chance, there will be far fewer people going PIT-FLG than PIT-CUN.
Also, it costs a carrier quite a lot to touch down anywhere, so those costs must be spread between only a few passengers. Finally, Flagstaff is at high altitude, with adverse winter weather. Both factors increase operating costs. With far lower fares, some greeters may consider a quick dash down I-17 to PHX (Phoenix) a good alternative.

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