Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

I know you always say you've had enough, but you still come back for more.

Despite what certain people in Sweden are insisting, flying is an essential way either to do business or to just get away from doing business.

Getting away, though, has proved trying so far this year.

In the middle of it all are American Airlines and Southwest.

Strange bedfellows, they are.

They're the most exposed to the MAX, with the former having 24 of them and the latter 34.

A few weeks ago, I wrote how both these big airlines have begun to nudge prices upwards.

Just by a few dollars more.

Perhaps it's just the vicissitudes of business. Perhaps, too, the fact that they continue to cancel flights because of the MAX may be contributing.

But last week, these two airlines reportedly began to nudge the cost of fares up again. 

Just by $5 more, one-way. For the second time in five weeks.

For passengers, every dollar more is vexing. 

What's fascinating, though, is that there are some who appear to be applauding.

As Fox Business reports, as soon as news of these fare increases wafted into the ether, airline share prices went up.

Yet, though American confirmed the fare hikes to Fox, Southwest offered me a more nuanced version of  its activity: 

We did not match the $5 system-wide fare increase filed by one of our competitors on Thursday. We did tactically match the increase on some routes in some markets -- but we did not match the increase across the board in any one market. And none more than $5 one-way. Our tactical increases do not include fare sales or promotional fares. They are geared to close-in, business travel markets. 

It's adorable how airlines don't like to refer to competitors by name.

Of course, passengers -- and especially business travelers -- of other airlines will be wondering whether their fares will join the upward trend. Tactical or not.

Yet if you ask those airlines whether they will simply mirror American's move you get a response like the one I received from a United Airlines spokesman: 

We continuously monitor supply and demand to determine competitive fares in all of the markets we serve.

I rather admire the art in that statement. Some might translate it as:

Hey, they put their prices up, we'll do it too. Unless we really see a massive commercial advantage in not doing it. And we mean massive.

Passengers must, of course, shop around with uncommon zeal and there still may not be a way to get around higher fares.

It's not as if there's a wealth of choices when you fly.

From a price elasticity point of view, I wonder at what point demand will sink, as passengers throw up their hands and say: "Not at this price."

I fancy there's still a little way to go. Up, that is.

Flying is much cheaper than it used to be. It's more uncomfortable, too. 

I'm often amazed by how much passengers are prepared to tolerate, just to get to their destinations.

We need to move and we're prepared to sit frozen in a tiny seat for a few hours in order to do so. 

The cost? Now that's something we need to decide if we'll swallow.

Or, if we're going on business, our financial controllers decide for us. 

Published on: Jun 16, 2019
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