One Place Burgers Won’t Cost You More: Airport Wendy’s Defy Surge Pricing Expectations

Wendy’s is trending because of their plan to raise prices at peak periods, like the lunch rush, in a plan that’s been likened to Uber’s surge pricing. When demand for burgers is high, Baconators get more expensive.

According to one study, 28.3% of major U.S. airports feature a Wendy’s. And a reader asked me whether Wendy’s surge pricing would roll out to airport locations?

This new Wendy’s plan involves a significant investment in technology in order to raise prices on menu boards and cash registers in an automated fashion on a recurring basis. And it’s not something we’re likely to see in airports.

  • Generally at airports they’re licensing the brand to concessionaires. These aren’t ‘real’ Wendy’s and aren’t staffed by Wendy’s employees.

  • Wendy’s airport location pricing will still be subject to ‘street pricing rules’ in place at many airports. Generally prices are going to be as high as airports will allow already (even if these rules often go unenforced by the Port Authority of New York New Jersey).

Delta Flight Attendant Says: Eat This Burger

Recall how long it took for Starbucks gift cards to even become redeemable at airport locations, let alone for pre-ordering to roll out.

Years ago frequent flyers might buy a ticket on a peak holiday early, and then re-sell that ticket close to departure. Then the government started requiring ID checks to fly. So passengers bought those same peak holiday tickets and waited for their flight to be oversold, taking bump compensation, and then rinse, repeat over the course of the holiday weekend.

If Wendy’s moved to surge pricing at the airport the next play would be a form of burger price arbitrage: buying Wendy’s burgers between banks of flights when concourses empty out, and then reselling them undercutting peak pricing during the rush between connections.

“Sir, this is a Wendy’s actually made it into Supreme Court oral argument on Monday in NetChoice v. Paxton. Meanwhile the Wendy’s surge pricing memes continue to be pure gold.

Never since 64 Wendy’s soda cups earned a free roundtrip ticket and frequent flyers went dumpster diving has Wendy’s held so much opportunity for profit at the airport. Sadly you aren’t likely to see Wendy’s surge pricing before your next flight.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Honestly this is a nothingburger (pun intended). If you’re buying Wendy’s for lunch or at the airport you’re not going to care what the price is. The only customers it impacts are lower income customers who go during peak or expensive times.

    Personally I eat fast food maybe 3x a year tops.

  2. This is really just standard restaurant pricing coming to fast food chains. Pretty much any regular restaurant engages in peak pricing by having a menu price that is what you’ll pay on Friday and Saturday and in the evenings, and then various daily specials / happy hours for their off-peak times, or restaurants that offer lower-priced lunch menus so they can sell essentially the same food to a lunch crowd that won’t pay dinner pricing for their daily lunch.

    For those who do indulge in fast food consumption, pro tip: Always order through the app. Wendy’s, for example, pretty much always has a 2-for-1 in-app-only offer.

  3. If an airport had a Wienerschnitzel, travelers would skip the AMEX Centurion Lounge, and American Airlines Admirals Club so they could chew on the world’s most wanted wiener. Unlike airline lounge food, Wienerschnitzel dogs are made with USDA approved cuts of quality meat and seasoned with a zesty blend of spices to ensure every bite is delicious and juicy.

    More info:

  4. If humans had any capacity for self-restraint, restaurants in airports and ball parks would go broke.

  5. Someone at Coke lost their job a few years ago when the public found out the were developing a machine that would vary price based on the outside temperature. The public hates this, even though it makes good economic sense. If you’re going to do this, you need to suggest you’re implementing a policy that offers discounts during slow hours. Nobody thinks happy hour prices are the regular price, and at other times prices are set higher.

  6. It’s a shame that the public objects because individuals would actually benefit. Economics seems an impossible thing for most people to understand because it is rational while most people are emotional.

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