Why repeated web searches increase the cost of flights

And how you can stop it happening.

Sometimes, travel companies are just plain evil. They argue that all they are doing is good business, but I argue they should get a life and a concience to boot.

How this ‘dynamic pricing’ scam works

If you search  for a particular route (lets pretend its “London to Boston”) you will see a set of prices from travel agents and airlines.

Later that day you do the same search and broadly speaking see the same results.

The next day you search once more for London to Boston flights and guess what.  This time you probably notice the price of a particular flight has gone  up. Now each time you search it goes up… and up.

You are not going mad. This is really happening. There are numerous flight companies who drop cookies in your browser and if they see you coming back again and again for information about a possible flight are quite happy to serve you with a higher price.

As of February this year the following major airlines have introduced dynamic pricing software: (according to Hugh Morris in the Daily Telegraph)

  • Air France
  • American Airlines
  • ANA
  • Air Canada
  • British Airways
  • Iberia
  • KLM
  • Lufthansa
  • SAS
  • Swiss
  • United
  • Delta

It is shabby behaviour. No two ways about it.

Thankfully there is a way around this. Since flight prices do increase when a particular route is repeatedly searched you need to stop telling the websites ‘hi, its me again’.

For the lowest prices I always search for flights in  private browsing mode (known as ‘incognito mode’ on Google Chrome Browsers).

In fact, over the years I have refined my system. I  have a specific browser set up on my PC that searches anonymously and via proxies so the sites I visit cannot see my location. My browser also ditches all cookies at the end of every browser session.  I do all my searches from that browser and once I have chosen my flight I open a new, completely different browser and do a final search on my ‘booking’ browser and thereby hopefully don’t get tripped up by this particular trap. I definitely urge you to do the same.