With the advent of the world wide web, people can easily shop around for the best prices on items or services. Whether its shoes, a book, or airline tickets, it’s not uncommon for a consumer to look out for different sites in search of the best deals. Have you ever noticed, when looking at airline tickets, the prices go up day-to-day, and in many cases moment-to-moment? I was curious about it so I dug around a bit. I found out about “Dynamic Pricing”.
“Dynamic Pricing”, also known as “Yield Management”, is a set of pricing strategies aimed at increasing profits. It’s not new, but add the technology and capabilities of the internet, and you have a powerful tool for, potentially, identifying customers that will pay a bit more.
Through the use of “Cookies”, websites have access to a great deal of data about their visitors. With that information, the site could automatically adjust the fair based on the collected data. The travel sites’ position is that the change in rates is based on inventory and not cookie data. This is what I always thought, and it may be 100% true. I’m skeptical of that 100%. Lol! William McGee, an aviation adviser for Consumer Reports, conducted a study, in 2016, of 372 searches on nine airline ticketing websites. What McGee and his team found was:
“Among the 372 searches, we found 42 pairs of different prices on separate browsers for the same sites retrieved at the same time (in theory there should have been no differences). In fact, all nine sites provided different airfares on separate browsers at the same time at least once, although it occurred most frequently on Google Flights (12) and Kayak (8). Out of the 42 pairs that differed, 25 resulted in higher fares (by as much as $121) and 17 resulted in lower fares (up to $84 less) for the scrubbed browser [meaning cookies/browser history removed].”
The technology is there, the incentive is obvious (mo $$$), and the discrepancies are fact, however, there is no admission from the airlines that they strategically employ “Dynamic Pricing” practices as a way of taking advantage of consumers based on their data.
What can you do?
I know it’s a little more work, but you can search for your flight in two browser windows- one that has no “cookie” data, and one that does. And go with the best results that serve your needs.
Browsers now have a “private” feature. Chrome has a way to browse the internet undetected through their “Incognito” feature. For your convenience, I’ve illustrated below how to do this in Chrome.
Consumers Union, a division of Consumer Reports, offers a much more detailed look at “Dynamic Pricing”, in their blog. READ IT HERE.