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Greg Rodgers

A Flight Booking Trick to Avoid

By September 5, 2011

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Flight Booking Tip

Photo by Greg Rodgers

Pulling the trigger on an $800+ flight isn't exactly an easy thing to do.

No matter how many times I do it, and no matter how exciting the destination in Asia seems, sometimes getting your finger to click that final "purchase" button takes Herculean strength.

Most people know to shop around for flights well in advance, however, what you may not know is that too much shopping around in advance may actually hurt your prices rather than help!

Flight booking sites are savvy enough to leverage technology -- without your knowing -- to increase their chances of landing your business. Some booking sites will increase all the prices after the date for which you searched, just to pressure you into thinking that flight prices are going up if you wait to buy.

Other sites -- even big names you would certainly recognize from advertisements -- are more nefarious: they save your previous flight searches to figure out how badly you really want that flight!

Let's say, for instance, you check a flight price on Monday. The booking site will save the search in what is called a cookie in your browser. If you return later that week and search for the same flight several times, as many people do to see if the price has dropped, they will actually increase the flight price by a marginal amount.

After planning and planning, would you not purchase an international flight if it had only gone up $25? Call it conspiracy theory or not, but insiders know to clear their browser cookies or to turn on anonymous browsing before each new flight search. Doing so makes the booking sites think that this is your first look at a flight price.

Paranoid? Maybe. However, I've personally booked scores of flights and have seen this cookie scam play out several times. I first realized the difference in identical fares after searching for prices between two different computers.

So why not take a chance and save that extra $25+ for some shopping in Asia?

Comments
June 13, 2012 at 1:23 pm
(1) Vivek says:

Good one Greg. Hope you spent those 25$ wisely in Asia. :D

November 24, 2012 at 10:02 pm
(2) Travis says:

I have to clear my cache all the time when booking travel… The prices go up every time I go back to the site to compare prices… But clearing the cache, cookies and browsing history definitely works.

January 4, 2013 at 3:31 pm
(3) gringorjones says:

This happened to me with AirAsia. It was a short haul flight that increased by ~50% when I searched for it a couple of times in the same week. I cleared my cookies and it dropped right back down.

Worth trying if you’re trying to keep costs down.

February 3, 2013 at 11:12 am
(4) jean_panyard says:

I agree but I think it is even worse. I am suspecting they are also now snagging IP addresses because I am clearing my cookies and it has minimal effect.

February 4, 2013 at 2:20 pm
(5) goasia says:

Hi Jean, I agree. After doing some more tests between two computers, it looks like the technology goes beyond just cookies. Perhaps the only way is to use two separate computers in different places!

March 19, 2013 at 1:33 pm
(6) Kemp Kennedy says:

This is an old article but it is not true. You can see prices for flights on Bing, which show average prices and when the best time to book is. It has nothing to do with your cookies, URL, or other ‘out to get you’ theories. Here’s a big hint for most flights, book Tue-Thu.

April 24, 2013 at 2:16 am
(7) goasia says:

This practice is still very much in use by major flight booking engines.

Even location/cookie tracking aside, airlines can see how many queries they get (no matter from where) on particular flights. This determines how much interest there is, and they can adjust prices accordingly and dynamically.

May 7, 2013 at 8:32 am
(8) Bethany Jane says:

@Kemp

Sadly, I checked with one of my roommates who works at a major airline in one of their offices. They DO save IP addresses, and if it seems you are searching a route a lot the price will rise.

May 17, 2013 at 7:14 am
(9) NopeNopeNope says:

@Bethany Jane

This is NOT true for site aggregators, only when visiting airlines directly.

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