Article written by

Jo Fitzsimons is a freelance travel writer who has visited over 60 countries. www.indianajo.com is the place where she shares destination details, travel itineraries, planning and booking tips and trip tales. Her aim: to help you plan your travel adventure on your terms and to your budget.

42 Responses

  1. Andrej
    Andrej at | | Reply

    Its four years since this article was written yet its still going on.
    I have just saved £400 thanks to this article.
    After my initial payment did “not succeed” the price jumped up by £400 (£100pp) and I got suspicious so a quick search brought me to this article.
    I used kproxy, a free addon to chrome which provided VPN in france rather then UK. Incognito would not work as it blocks cookies and you cant book on jetairways withouth cookies. But I used the same details and payment method and got the originally displayed price and the transaction went thru.
    This is literally daylight robbery as its not even based on supply and demand principles its rather like being hustled by hustlers.

  2. Marie-Eve
    Marie-Eve at | | Reply

    I believe you can also use Tor as a browser. It’s supposed to change your IP address everytime (someone told me)

  3. Daniel Harper
    Daniel Harper at | | Reply

    Thanks for the article, Jo. I have experienced this a number of times and in the UK the price can go up considerably through dynamic pricing. Several times I’ve tried to book a flight, my method of payment has failed (strangely) and when I went back to try again with a different card, the price had suddenly increased. I’ve now switched to using a VPN on all my devices. I’m told it can have additional benefits by allowing you to get cheaper flights by appearing to be purchasing from a different country (since flight costs vary according to where they are booked). Some VPNs have a large selection of servers in different countries to choose from.

  4. David
    David at | | Reply

    Yep, just experienced it today booking a flight from Houston to Boston on Southwest. Just as I was about to book, it jumped, and hilariously, every time I refresh my browser, it goes up and down. Started at $82, went to $117, then $165. Unreal. Sadly, it hasn’t gone back to $82, but I imagine it will before we fly. Not traveling till September. Tried different browsers, computers, cleared cookies. By the way, Opera Browser now has a free built in VPN. Tried that too, but haven’t gotten it back to $82 yet. I’ll keep trying

  5. Stef
    Stef at | | Reply

    Thank you for this article. We wanted to visit our daughter in Spain. I checked on flights late yesterday. They were @$815 pp. There were many options. I needed to confirm calendars. I went to book this morning (less than 24 hours) and everything went up at least $400pp. I called Delta and was told I should have purchased the ‘price guarantee’ for the extra hundreds. This is such a scam! Now I am doing research based on your article and some of the comments made by others.

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  8. backyardguides
    backyardguides at | | Reply

    Interesting timing. Friday (generally the highest priced day to flight search) I found a flight Milan>Cancun at 380. Saturday same flight and airline was 3800!! Ten times the price overnight because they figure I’m keen to go home. Too bad you lawyer types can’t figure out a way for group rebellion – price fixing IS Illegal after all.

  9. Rajat Chakraborty
    Rajat Chakraborty at | | Reply

    Hey Thanks Jo, for the attribution… Working more on this and will update soon.. Stay in touch..Regards

  10. Rajat Chakraborty
    Rajat Chakraborty at | | Reply

    Hey Jo, nice article… a small update though, cookie clearing does not work anymore.. The traditional cookies used to only store information of the links that one checked on a blog/website.. The new cookies are a step ahead: they store your IP addresses. Once that is done, it does not matter how many times you clear browser cookies…
    Here’s something more on the subject… hope it helps others too….Regards

    http://trawellblogging.com/5-ways-to-save-money-and-booking-cheap-flight-tickets-online/

  11. A Traveler
    A Traveler at | | Reply

    Interesting article! I’ll have to keep this in mind next time I book a flight. Never noticed it before, but it makes a lot of sense. On a technical note, I tend to keep things pretty tight (security-wise), so it does not bother me at all to regularly clear all my cookies. Yes, I sometimes have to go through the annoying process of my bank’s “We don’t recognize your computer, so you’ll have to go through a few more hoops to log in”, but it certainly beats being tracked, and possibly at risk for ID theft, or other hacks. As for tracking while you’re within the site (for example, being able to remember your choices from page to page), that seems a very reasonable use for cookies. Just remember to clear them, close the browser (or tab) and then go back in directly to the desired page (you can safely bookmark it, or copy/paste the URL into a notepad or something if you want) before you get to the booking part. I mentioned my approach to cookies because it is really not as scary as it sounds to delete them all, and yes, every page you visit which has an ad, or even an image from somewhere, can have one or more cookies associated with it. Bogs down your browser’s performance.

    Also, I NEVER have any of the auto-form filling features of the browser turned on (like, remember passwords, or login names), and always look for sites that have the “Remember me” check-box already checked so I can uncheck it. BTW – I am a software engineer, so maybe this really isn’t as easy as it sounds for some folks, but I believe those people are smart enough to understand and learn it. Once you go through it a time or two, it gets pretty easy.

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  14. Rudolf Rosa
    Rudolf Rosa at | | Reply

    Hi,
    just found your great article. I’m a programmer, so I understand quite well how dynamic pricing works technically, and I am amazed that your explanation is better than I could have written myself, as you say the important and omit any unnecessary technical details. And, more importantly, your suggestions on how to avoid dynamic proicing are exactly the ones I would recommend myself, including Incognito mode as the most practical one! (Using a different browser is also OK. Using a different computer with the same browser may not be enough, as some browsers sync your cookies across computers, but often it will work well. Deleting cookies works as well, but it has side-effects, like logging you off of everything. Tor is too slow to be used efficiently, and I think it’s an overkill for booking a ticket.)

    There are other things that might happen, and are harder to avoid — prices may be different based on the time of the day, based on your country (you would need a proxy or Tor to mask the country you are connecting to the internet from), or other information about you (it would be easy to e.g. show higher prices if the website detects that you are using a presumbaly more expensive device to browse the internet, such as an iPhone or a computer with a large screen resolution) — that is not to say that I know that this is happening, only that it would be technically easy to do so, and I can imagine the airlines might be doing that… There are ways to get around any of this, but it may cost you more to do so (time is money) than to pay a bit more for the ticket. So for now, the Incognito mode is probably the best way, unless someone finds out that there is more going on than cookies (it might be, but it might not).

  15. Thomas
    Thomas at | | Reply

    Iberia tracked our inquiries for flights and offered a good price for a minute then pulled the original price and jacked it for the next couple days , they make it seem like flights will go higher or sell out…creating a personal frenzy… read about the scam called dynamic pricing based on your internet inquiries and cookies, the dumb ass on the phone just keeps saying prices change often and we bought it too early sorry no refunds ?? but now every flight way before and after our date is half what they made us pay??? $2600 for 2 tickets JFK to Madrid??? was best price we could find for 3 days after searching so we bought…Now the price is only $1500 every time we search. Nice Scam,anyone else had this happen or am I crazy? Internet programs use your search info against you now until you bite or wait long enough and clear your browser according to a couple articles I read. WTF?

  16. Nick
    Nick at | | Reply

    Thank you so much for this article, you have saved us £thousands! We’ve been planning a our dream family holiday from the UK to California for 3 weeks this summer flying into SFO and back out from LAX. We were keen to fly Virgin Premium economy and one evening when I sat down to price the flights I was shocked to see how they jumped every time I backtracked or looked at a different time/day – when I went back to our original choice it jumped from £6200, to £7250, and then to £9250 – over a space of 20 minutes. I was initially gutted as I realised we wouldn’t be able to afford those flights, then furious when it dawned on me that something was amiss and was tracking me. I opened up my husbands laptop and was served the same prices there too. Still furious I googled dynamic pricing Virgin Atlantic and found your post. I downloaded Google Chrome, pulled up an Incognito tab and bagged and bought the flights at £5777! Massive massive thank you for this hugely helpful insight, you have saved our holiday!

  17. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer
    Chanel | Cultural Xplorer at | | Reply

    I usually use incognito mode to avoid this ‘dynamic pricing’ myself after I saw how prices increased incrementally when I would flip flop back and forth in between sights. Those airlines are so cheeky!

  18. Antonio Morote
    Antonio Morote at | | Reply

    Great read, very interesting!

    It seems that websites today, gather as much information as possible! Like you say, we agree to it either by clicking “Accept” on a banner, or by not clicking “Accept” and simply using the site. The majority of sites state on the cookies banner, that by simply using the site, you agree to their terms and conditions. This means, that even if you don’t click “Accept”, then you are accepting their terms and conditions!

    A great tool for the privcy concerned is to use TOR. It’s a great browser for masking as much personal information as possible, and is be pretty bullet-proof for your online privacy!

    Anyway, great read, and thanks for sharing 🙂

  19. Jo
    Jo at | | Reply

    Wow, I just went into my cookies to try and selectively delete them so I didn’t lose my password. Hundreds and hundreds of cookies for sites I’ve never been on (I assume they were picked up through adverts and such?). And I’ve only had this laptop a month! No wonder companies have so much information on what we’re doing!

    Dynamic pricing is a disgrace! The internet is wonderful for bargains in most cases, but there’s no denying it also helps shadier companies rip people off! Thanks for the tips about incognito mode, it hadn’t occurred to me to use it!

    Enjoy Colombia- it’s my favourite country so far, and Cartagena is perhaps the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen!

  20. Monica
    Monica at | | Reply

    Hi,
    It happened to me last year with our national airline company: I was interested im goint to Amsterdam and for the dates I wanted the price was getting higher and higher each time I was doing a research ( in the same day).
    I am so happy that I am not the only one that observed this pattern and especially that you provided us with useful advices on how to pay them back 🙂
    Love your blog !

  21. Corinne
    Corinne at | | Reply

    I’ve long suspected something like this was happening to me. I just never put two and two together and make the cookie connection! Thanks for a very well written and informative article. I’ve also noticed an issue when trying to book flights through my air miles. If I spend too much time trying to find just the right time/location I’ll suddenly find flight options that were available earlier in my search are no longer available (we’re talking a matter of minutes here not days and it’s highly unlikely the flights were no longer available because someone else took them).

  22. Jonny
    Jonny at | | Reply

    I am so glad to read a post calling out airlines on this BS. But it’s not just airlines that practice this! I searched for a bus ticket from Brussels to Paris and found a really good €9 deal which jumped inconspicuously to €23 when I looked it up again to buy it. Fortunately because I’d already found out about dynamic pricing (although I didn’t know that was its name), I was immediately suspicious and so I used Chrome incognito to see if I was being played, and sure enough I got the price of €9 again. Seriously, €9 to €23 is an increase of like 150% – it’s more than ridiculous!!

    Enjoy Cartagena (and the rest of Colombia) – it’s glorious!

    1. herbntrickster
      herbntrickster at | | Reply

      Thank you for this info..
      I found out about this years ago when 2 friends and I were booking flights to Denver to travel around the Southwest. All 3 of us were online booking with Cheap Tickets. com – 2 of us were talking on the phone with each other at the same time looking at the same flight being quoted very different prices like hundreds of dollars different. Sadly this is also true for online shopping for nearly everthing.

  23. Jeff @ Go Travelzing
    Jeff @ Go Travelzing at | | Reply

    I have been hearing more about this practice lately. Airlines are not the only ones that are doing this. I need to start paying more attention and search incognito from now on.

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