Boston Stronger - Updated

Patrick Surry - Jan. 31, 2016

Summary

  • A conservative estimate shows that interest in flying to the Boston Marathon is up 42% compared to last year.
  • If last year's pattern is any indication, so far only about a third or 33% of of total expected searches have occurred so far and the bulk of searches is yet to come.
  • The increase in field size for this year’s Marathon is not enough to explain all of the additional demand.
  • Searches for Marathon flights increased during registration week and held steady through the Red Sox playoff run suggesting that “Boston Strong” has driven broad interest.
  • The Marathon this year is looking as popular as the Fourth of July - one of Boston’s biggest yearly celebrations.
  • Prices are tracking similarly to last year, and starting to trend upwards.  Between increasing prices and increased demand, which might lead to sold out planes, the the time to book your flight is now!

Boston Strong Marathon

The US is poised to show strong support for Boston after last year’s bombing by turning out in force for the Boston Marathon, and the 33% expansion in the field size (1) is not enough to explain all the additional interest. Interest in travel to Boston for the Marathon started to increase in December and has been growing steadily (Figure 1).  Currently search levels for the event are about 42% higher than last year (looking at searches between Jan 1 - Feb 23 in both years).  This increase factors out the national growth in aviation demand. In addition, if we look at last year's data we project that only about a third (33%) of Marathon flight searching has occurred so far and the bulk of it is yet to come!  Expect flights to Boston to fill up as the Marathon draws closer.  Hotel owners are seeing the increase in interest as well, with rooms already selling out for the dates of the Marathon (3). The data shows an initial spike in flight search during the Marathon’s registration period from September 9th through 30th (2), as qualifying runners were notified, with levels holding steady through late October as the Red Sox made their winning World Series bid (October 23rd to 31st), triggering nationwide support for Boston Strong.  After that searches experienced a lull during Thanksgiving, but started to increase again in December and  continued growing in January and February.  

Figure 1: Searches for travel to Boston for the Boston Marathon in 2013 and 2014

Currently flight prices for trips to Boston for Patriot’s Day weekend (or Marathon weekend) are similar to last year, without the slight dip that prices saw in January 2013.  If this trend continues, prices will begin to trend upwards and increase sharply in late March as race day approaches.

To find the best prices for travel to Boston from anywhere in the World click here and generate an origin-destination market report.

Figure 2: Weighted average price from US origins for round-trip travel to Boston for the Boston Marathon in 2013 and 2014

1.http://www.baa.org/news-and-press/news-listing/2013/august/boston-marathon-registration-dates-and-field-size.aspx

2.http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2013/08/29/baa-expands-field-for-boston-marathon/vMaQvAQKRIbw3nR1IOWzpL/story.html

3.http://www.boston.com/business/2014/02/10/with-marathon-interest-high-city-hotels-already-sold-out/Nr66kkvgHGOAuDlERvSPdN/story.html

Data and Methodology

The data presented in this analysis comes from Hopper’s combined feed of Global Distribution Service (GDS) data sources which includes about 10 million queries and 1 billion trips per day.  Demand is represented as the number of queries not actual ticket purchases, and is calibrated across all GDS sources for each market.  Deal fares are represented by the 10th percentile prices.  For example if the 10th percentile price is $800 dollars it means that only 10% of trips are priced at or below this price.

The data presented in this analysis include searches for travel to Boston departing April 17-20, 2014 for the Marathon on the 21st, and departing April 11-14, 2013 for the Marathon on the 15th.

Updated Methodology

We adopted a more conservative methodology to account for potential changes in our own data feeds as well as any overall market changes.

Rather than simply look at the difference in raw number of searches from US origins to Boston for Marathon dates (as we originally did), we updated our analysis with the following steps:

  1. Omit any data source where we had partial coverage during the time period
  2. Include only markets (US origin to Boston) where we saw searches in both Jan 2013 and Jan 2014.  (assumes zero year-on-year growth in number of routes)
  3. Normalize searches for Patriot's weekend by searches for any other April dates (assumes zero year-on-year growth in overall flight search for April)

The second and third assumptions are both conservative, in that BTS is reporting positive year-on-year growth in air traffic, and a real increase in search for Patriot's weekend dates would likely lead to a "halo" effect in other nearby April dates.

On this basis, Boston is 42% up for Patriot's weekend dates.  On a similar basis, search from US origins to New York for Patriot's weekend is -4% (JFK -6%, EWR +4%, LGA -7%), and a basket of typical US destinations excluding Boston is down 7%.

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