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High air fares may have vexed Clemson, Alabama fans

Some Clemson and Alabama fans who wanted to fly to Arizona for the College Football Playoff Championship game tonight may have found themselves blocked by high air fares, according to an Associated Press article.

The culprit: The airlines' system of maximizing profits by charging more for last-minute tickets.

AP found some round-trip fares on sale over the weekend, for example, were nearly $1,300 from Greenville-Spartanburg to Phoenix, and $1,400 from Birmingham to Phoenix.

Fans take pictures as the team from Alabama leaves after media day for the NCAA College Football Playoff National Championship in Phoenix, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Airlines' use of "revenue management" tactics mean people buying tickets just days before a flight often pay more. Typically, that means business travelers on expense accounts booking flights for meetings pay more than leisure travelers who schedule vacations weeks or months in advance.

In the case of the national championship game, "Alabama and Clemson fans didn't know their teams were headed to Phoenix until after the New Year's Eve games, so they either had to buy early and hope their team made it to the title game or wait and pay the higher fare," AP reported.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines said last week it added flights to Phoenix from Huntsville, Birmingham and Greenville-Spartanburg "to meet customer demand" for travel to the game. The flights departed Saturday and are returning on Tuesday.

While some college football fans in the South may not have found the last-minute deals they were looking for, Delta said it was also flying both teams to the game. Delta is a major charter flight operator for collegiate and professional sports teams.

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About the Author

Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.