From The Daily Mail:
The Chancellor insisted it was ‘vital [that the fall in the price of crude oil] was passed on to families at petrol pumps, through utility bills and air fares’.
‘The Government is conducting studies of industries like the utilities and the airlines. We are examining if any action needs to be taken,’ a Treasury spokesman said.
How much the price of a) petrol, b) domestic energy bills and c) air fares fall when oil prices fall are three entirely separate topics.
a) Petrol is the easiest. The market is highly competitive, and falls in the price of oil are passed on in lower prices almost immediately (even though demand is fairly price-insensitive).
In round figures
Pump price £1.32, knock off VAT = £1.10, knock off 59p fuel duty and 10p profit margin for the transporters/retailers = residual cost of actual oil = 41p/litre.
Crude oil $110/barrel, convert to £ at 1.70, divide by 159 litres = 41p/litre.
Pump price £1.10, knock off VAT = £0.91, knock off 59p fuel duty and 10p profit margin = residual cost of oil = 22p/litre.
Crude oil $55/barrel, convert to £ at 1.55, divide by 159 litres = 22p/litre.
b) With domestic energy, it is nigh impossible to calculate by how much prices will fall for umpteen reasons which have nothing to do with the price of oil. Generators also use coal, gas and nuclear; generators and customers are locked into various fixed price contracts, there is little ease of substitution etc, so let's not bother.
UPDATE: VFTS in the comments reminds us that according to Energy UK, only 1% of UK electricity is generated from oil. i.e. in practical terms none at all.
c) Air fares are set according to what the market will bear.
This bears very little relation to costs in the short or even medium term. Some flights are run at a loss because the airlines don't want to forfeit their landing rights (they hope that things will pick up in future); some flights are hugely profitable.
International travellers will pay a lot more to land at a London airport than elsewhere in the UK, even though the total distance flown is much the same, etc. UK travellers have to pay a lot more to fly to a major European city rather than somewhere in the back of beyond.*
If this were not the case, then landing slots at London airports would not be bought and sold for such huge amounts of money. What the purchaser is paying for is the scarcity-monopoly-rental value. Airlines just try to sell as many tickets as possible for the highest price possible using a variety of auction methods (i.e. trial and error).
So the overall impact on air fares will be minimal, although we would expect a modest reduction overall; it will be negligible at London airports and larger at regional airports which are running at two-thirds capacity on average.
* Thanks to the miracle that is the internet, we can quickly establish that flights from Leeds-Bradford to Geneva start from £86 (British Airways); a similar distance flight from Heathrow to Munich starts from £141 (also British Airways).
Wednesday, 7 January 2015
From The Daily Mail: