Dynamic Pricing: Flight Pricing’s Biggest Scam?

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What is dynamic pricing? Want to find out how this discriminatory pricing practice used by airlines, is pushing up the cost of your flights? And, most importantly, want to understand how to beat the system to get cheaper prices? Read on…

Once upon a time, I was a consumer protection lawyer and although I traded my Blackberry for a backpack nearly four years ago, my interest in consumer protection issues holds strong.

So, when I recently tried to book a flight from the USA to Colombia and saw my flight price had increased due to a little-known practice called dynamic pricing (more on this in a sec), I saw red.

Underhand, undisclosed and about as consumer protection un-friendly as you can get – despite being perfectly legal – I’m writing this article to spread the word, to explain the practice and to equip you with some tips and tools to beat the big boys at their own game.

So first…

What is dynamic pricing?

Ask an economist and you’ll get a very in-depth description of dynamic pricing that includes things like price elasticity, market forces and consumer demand. If you want a detailed description, you can find one here.

For the rest of us who don’t have a degree in economics (and don’t want one), dynamic pricing is basically the practice of setting a retail price according to demand.

In simple terms when talking about flight prices this means that it’s going to cost you more to travel to Paris over Valentine’s weekend compared to taking a mid-week flight to a holiday destination in the low season. Peak periods, weekend travel and nice flight times are generally going to cost you more – and most people are both familiar with and ok with that idea.

So, if that’s the case, what’s the problem with dynamic pricing? The answer comes when you learn that, thanks to snazzy online tracking technology, companies are able to price flights not just according to time of day, season and popularity, but on an individual basis according to how interested you seem to be in the particular flight and travel in general.


Yes, it’s true (see this USA Today article if you’re not convinced).

How do airlines do this?

You might, quite rightly, be wondering how the airlines know that you’re super keen on a particular flight or route (travel from Phoenix to Cartagena in my case).

Sadly, the answer is simple – the number of times you check flight details online (as well as past purchasing activity) is collected through the use of innocently sounding cookies, which follow your browsing behaviour around the web.

The unfairness of dynamic pricing by airlines

While most of us accept that crossing the Atlantic to go and see family two days before Christmas is going to cost more than if you take the same trip during the hurricane season, what happens when pricing gets really personal?

Taking an abstract example, most consumers would be outraged if the price of their favourite bar of chocolate or bottle of wine in the supermarket went up every time they strolled past the item trying to decide whether to break their diet/budget and buy it.

However, in the world of the internet, that’s exactly what happens when you regularly look at flight prices over time.

The smart systems employed by the airlines get alerted to the fact that you’re tempted by a certain destination and as time goes by, the price goes up.

Meanwhile, someone who pops into the shop, goes straight to that bottle of wine/bar of chocolate…or flight… and instantly makes a purchase is much more likely to get the original, baseline price on offer.

Fair or not fair?

I think most of us would agree that two people getting exactly the same product/service but paying different prices according to how many times they checked the prices or booked in the past is flat-out unfair. In two words, it’s price discrimination.

What makes it even worse is that most consumers aren’t aware that dynamic pricing is going on. People tend to book flights without knowing what other people have paid and there is no clear warning that price discrimination is at play.

If an airline had an upfront warning that prices rise according to the number of times you look at a flight, wouldn’t you alter your shopping practices to get cheaper flight prices?

A concrete example of dynamic pricing in practice

It’s pretty hard to believe that dynamic pricing happens and yet it does. And, to prove that this elusive unicorn does exist and is not an urban internet myth, I have a solid example of it below from my most recent flight booking experience.

Yet, it’s not the first time I’ve experienced it.

The first time was several years ago when I was looking at flights with Virgin Atlantic heading from London to the USA. For weeks I checked the prices and little by little the cost crept up…to the point that I eventually made a decision to buy through fear that the prices were going to keep going up to a point I couldn’t afford.

That night, at home, I opened my laptop and found that the prices had gone down by hundreds of pounds (for two people) and back to the original price I’d seen weeks ago. At the time I thought I’d stumbled across a great deal and booked in a heartbeat. It wasn’t until later I realised that all I’d done was book the tickets from a different computer (at home compared to at work).

My second experience was when I booked a flight with Easyjet from Cyprus back to the UK. My friend had been checking the prices for weeks online before booking. She sent me her flight confirmation complete with the price she paid so I could be sure to book myself onto the same flight. Not having done any pre-checking of flights myself, I managed to buy tickets for exactly the same flight for £20 less than my friend.

Most recently, and the occasion when I took the time to preserve some real, hard evidence of dynamic pricing (or flight price discrimination) was just a couple of weeks ago. I had been obsessively checking prices for a trip from the USA to Colombia. I wasn’t sure of my USA departure point or Colombian landing point so I spent a lot of time on Skyscanner comparing routes and prices.

Settling on a route from Phoenix to Cartagena, I checked the price a few more times before booking – and just as I went to buy, the price conspicuously jumped. It wasn’t by much, but still…

Heading over to another browser (more on this below), I conducted the identical search – same search site, same departure airport, same destination, same day, same flight time, same airline. It was exactly the same flight and….low and behold, the price was less.

Here it is:

Skyscanner example of Dynamic Pricing

What you see on the left-hand side are the search results that came up after weeks of searching for flights to Colombia.

On the right-hand side is the identical search but conducted in a fresh browser i.e. without the internet knowing who I was and that I had an interest in this flight.

Shocked? Yes, it was the first time I realised that a) this practice goes on and b) that it is perfectly legal.

Speaking of which…

How is this legal?

As an ex-consumer protection lawyer, it staggers me that this practice can be legal. However, it is. How? My best guess is that those little cookie browser policies that annoyingly pop up when you go onto a new website hold the key. Commonly, we click “agree” to those pop-ups just to make them go away, yet in doing so we are accepting a vital bit of small print, which I’m guessing is what allows airlines to track your details and price their flights accordingly.

Looking at Spirit’s policy (I’m picking on Spirit because they are the airline that most recently gave me dynamic pricing), here’s what they say about cookies:

“How and why do we use cookies on spirit.com?

A cookie is a small data file that Web sites often store on your computer’s hard drive when you visit. Spirit Airlines uses cookies, but we do not store personally identifiable information in your cookie.

We use cookies in order to improve your online experience and to facilitate effective site administration. Cookies enable us to keep track of your reservation as you book on our site. They also allow us to recognize customers who have saved their info with us when they visit, and to provide those customers with their account information. If you save your info with Spirit Airlines or book on our site, we use cookies to monitor and maintain information about how you use our site and what you book. If you have not saved your info with us or booked from our site, we may monitor and maintain information about your use of our Web site in a manner that does not identify you. In either case, this information helps us to serve you better by improving our site design, as well as our products, services, contests, and promotions.

Through our use of cookies, we track and maintain the identity of the Web site you visited immediately prior to visiting Spirit Airlines. Keeping track of the site you came from prior to visiting spirit.com can help us to improve our site design.

You can refuse cookies by turning them off in your Web browser. However, if you turn off cookies, we will not be able to track your reservation, which means you will be unable to book on our site. Nor will we be able to recognize you as a customer who has saved your information with us, so you will be unable to access (or change or delete) your account information.

We allow certain third-party companies to serve ads and/or collect certain anonymous information when you visit our website. These companies may use information (not including your name, email address, telephone number or any other personally identifiable information) about your visits to this and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. Such third parties do not collect personally identifiable information. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used by these companies, you can visit the Network Advertising Initiative website.”

I’m no expert on privacy policies but it’s my best guess that airlines (all of which have similar policies), rely on this kind of wording to argue that we, as consumers, have been sufficiently informed of the kind of dynamic pricing practices that go on behind the scenes.

Change is needed

I don’t know about you, but I don’t find the above wording nearly clear enough, nor prominent enough (tucked away in the terms and conditions). What I’d really like to see, in order to be able to make a fully informed buying decision, is something along these lines:

“Through cookies we collect details about your visits to our website. Using this data, we may set prices on an individual basis according to the number of times you look at a flight or your past buying behaviour. This might include raising flight prices for you on an individual basis. In order to avoid these higher prices, please clear your cookies before booking.”

Of course, this is a pipe dream and absent any regulation to enforce it, this kind of clear warning is not something we are likely to see any time soon (or ever?).

But don’t worry, there are some things you can do to make sure you don’t fall prey to (a.k.a get shafted by) dynamic pricing.

What you can do to avoid the great dynamic pricing scam?

Incognito Mode on Google
Time to go incognito!

Although I don’t know the technical details behind cookies and how they work for airlines, I do know what has worked for me.

Clear your cookies before you book

In the past, clearing my cookies has proven to be a good way to refresh the airline’s prices back to the base rate I was originally quoted. If you don’t want to clear all of your cookies (i.e. including the ones that store stuff that is useful on other sites), you can clear them on a website-by-website basis.

Use a different computer/device

When I finally booked my Virgin Atlantic flight a few years ago, using a different laptop in a different location took me back to the original flight prices I’d been quoted.

Use a different browser

I have two browsers installed on my laptop – Safari for everyday use and Google Chrome as a backup. Generally, my Chrome browser is cookie-free because I don’t use it often and as a result, I’m able to search the web as though I’m a new user – perfect for avoiding dynamic flight pricing. Hopping over to Chrome is how I managed to get the lower flight price for my trip to Cartagena.

Note: Your second browser doesn’t need to be Chrome, it just needs to be any other browser that hasn’t stored your previous flight checking or flight booking behaviour.

Use Incognito Mode

Of all the different ways to avoid discriminatory pricing, using “Incognito Mode” under the “File>New Incognito Window” menu on the Chrome browser has got to be my favourite. This separate browsing function is simple to activate, it doesn’t require clearing out any cookies and it guarantees your browsing privacy (because that is the whole point of Incognito Mode, right?).

I did a little test searching for my Cartagena flight in Incognito mode and it worked perfectly, stripping away any dynamic pricing.

Tip: not sure how to use it? Here’s a quick explanation and video on how to use Incognito Mode.

Due to its simplicity and certainty, I’d recommend using Chrome’s Incognito Mode above all other options listed above, but really go with whatever works best for you.

Cookies have become smarter…but so have we

Technology moves fast and since I wrote this post, cookies have become smarter, as have the companies using them. Now, it may no longer be enough to delete your cookies or, indeed, use Incognito mode in Google because companies are starting to store your IP address (a note of your physical location) and dynamically pricing your airfares and hotels based on searches done from your IP address.

The good news is that we’ve become smarter too and some solutions for avoiding dynamic pricing still exist:

Move physical address – no, I don’t mean move house but if you’ve been searching for flights at work (in your lunch break, of course, wink-wink), then try looking at home…or pop round to your mum’s or best friend’s place.

Try a VPN – these days I use a VPN to avoid dynamic pricing. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) operates by masking your IP address – you get to tell the Internet that you’re in Colorado and the Internet believes you. But, don’t forget, keep changing location each time you search.

Most VPNs have a monthly fee. However, many will offer a free trial or, if you’re booking a big trip, it can be worth subscribing for a month (the VPN charges can be pretty low and come with the added bonus that you can watch Netflix in another territory!).

Here are a few of the more popular VPNs to try: Express VPN | Nord VPN | Pure VPN

Pro Booking Tips

If you are an air miles member, make sure that you are logged out of your membership account before you search. Cookies are used to store your membership details and I’d wage a bet that the searches you conducted while logged into your membership account will be tracked.

To be absolutely certain you’re getting a refreshed, new price and not dynamic pricing, I’d recommend doing both your usual search e.g. in the browser where you’ve been checking the flight price a lot, and a new search e.g. in Incognito Mode just before you book. If you are given two different prices, you can be pretty confident that the second, Incognito/cookie-free price has been stripped of all its individually set pricing.

Flight prices are one of the biggest barriers for many travellers and it angers me that airlines are able to take a person’s passion and interest to visit a place and use it against them, effectively forcing them to pay more to achieve their dreams.

The amount I ended up saving on my flight to Cartagena wasn’t huge, but it’s money I’d rather see in my pocket than the pockets of the airline’s shareholders. And all savings I make now help me pay for future trips.

Until the regulators or lawmakers step in to do what is right for consumers, I hope this article will level the playing field in some small way.

Yawn, disclaimer

The ex-lawyer in me feels the need to point a few things out.

1: I’m no longer a lawyer and I can’t give legal advice. Duh.
2: This article has come about purely through personal observation. I’m not an expert on this topic and I don’t know the details behind the booking systems I’ve used – I’m just reporting what I’ve seen and experienced.
3: My thoughts about the cookie policy being used to make this practice legal is my best guess. I don’t know the inner legal wranglings of this area of law…but if you do, please join in the debate with any additions or corrections.

Finally, if you need any help on some of the more technical stuff I’ve mentioned here (installing browsers, clearing cookies or even just searching for flights), drop me a line and I’ll help as far as my amateur technical expertise permits.

Related Articles:

What To Do When You Get Dengue Fever When You Travel

10 Times Travel Made Me Sick

12 Tips For When You Miss Your Flight

Are You Ready To Get Robbed? 12 Holiday Safety Tips

Have you ever been the victim of discriminatory pricing? Were you even aware that it happened?

If getting cheap flights is a topic of interest for you, you might also be interested in my travel hacking series. Although it is specific to the UK, there are a lot of tips that will apply to every international traveller (or wannabe traveller).

Author - Jo Fitzsimons

Hi, I'm Jo, the writer behind Indiana Jo. In 2010 I quit my job as a lawyer and booked an around the world ticket. As a solo female traveller, I hopped from South America to Central America, across Asia, the Middle East and Europe. It was supposed to be a one-year trip but over a decade later, it's yet to end. I've lived in a cave, climbed down a volcano barefoot, spent years as a digital nomad, worked as a freelance travel writer, and eaten deadly Fugu. Now I'm home, back in the UK, but still travelling far and wide. You can find out more About Me.

42 thoughts on “Dynamic Pricing: Flight Pricing’s Biggest Scam?”

  1. So frustrating that they do this. Had a trip all ready to go. Rang the airline like they told me to, to see if reward seats were available. When I then went to book. The whole price had gone up by £1000 and more. This was with Virgin, I rang them and explained that I was only calling them which was the delay in booking and they said it is not their problem or anything they can do.

    • I’m so sorry that happened. I hate it so much and can’t believe it’s legal! Hope you managed to book ok in the end?

  2. This happened to me after I added my flight to the cart, entered my credit card and I got an oops that price is no longer available. Please go back to select the flight you want. Long story short, booked it at higher cost. Logged into a different browser and did not sign into my account and I got it for the cheaper price. Cancelled the first flight within 24 hours. How silly is all this work b

  3. 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.

    • Hi Andrej, it doesn’t surprise me this is still happening but thanks for confirming. Such sods! Glad you managed to outsmart them but it shouldn’t be this way.

  4. 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.

    • Hi Daniel, it’s always reassuring to know I’m not the only one experiencing this. I also use a VPN and agree – when I was in Colombia I managed to get flights a lot cheaper by pretending I was in the USA and not Colombia (strangely enough). It’s frustrating that we have to go to these efforts but not nearly as frustrating as paying a personal premium for searching too much. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  5. 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

    • It drives me insane and the booking sites are forever inventing new ways to stop us getting those original prices even though we know we’re being scammed. I see a resurgence of Internet cafes hooked up to VPNs just so that legitimate people can make legitimate transactions without getting ripped off. Interesting about Opera. Have you tried one of the paid VPNs like HideMe: ?

  6. 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.

    • Stef, that sucks! I’m in Malaysia at the moment. If you want to send over the flight details you’re looking at, I can check what price is coming up here just so you can get an independent view on whether dynamic pricing is going on.

  7. 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.

    • Wait? What – that is a terrible boom in pricing 🙁 I’m afraid that the only kind of price-fixing that is illegal is when competitors collude to charge the same price as each other, not fixing the price relative to a particular individual… though if I had my way, the latter would be legislated against too.

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

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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).

    • Thanks, Rudolf, that’s a real compliment coming from a programmer! Also very interesting to read about the other tactics, particularly syncing across computers! It really angers me that companies are legally allowed to get away with this. I’m going to play around with some of this and see if I can gather some evidence. I have VPN access at the moment so that’s been fun to mess around with although so far I’ve not seen any great difference in price for the locations and airlines I’m checking. Thanks for stopping by!

  12. 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?

    • Thomas, that is so frustrating. And a ridiculously hike in price. Have you approached the airline with the flight prices that are available now and asked if they can do anything for you. I don’t think you have many rights legally, but perhaps telling them you will talk about your experience with the mainstream press (whosever is local to you) might prompt a re-think on their part? I have had it happen to me and it is sickening. Good luck and hope the cookie clearing works for next time.

  13. 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!

    • Nick, it’s feedback like this that keep me going. I’m so incredibly pleased that you’ve been able to book your dream holiday. These sharp practices by the airlines make me rage so I’m glad you were able to side-step it and book at the way more reasonable price! Virgin Atlantic nearly got me once too. Have an amazing trip and come back and post some pics on my Facebook page 🙂

  14. 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!

  15. 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 🙂

    • Anotonio, you’re absolutely right about the cookie banners. If my memory serves, at least in Europe, the banners were a legal requirement that came into force relatively recently, but they’ve done very little I suspect to actually raise awareness because, as you say, people either click on them (accept) or click over them (indirect accept). TOR – thanks for the tip, I’ll check it out!!! Oh, and I’ll gonna hop right over to your article on ensuring you have an empty seat on your next flight!

  16. 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!

    • Jo, I had the same cookie shock when I played around with deleting mine and I also found a whole bunch of cookies from sites I’d never visited. I like not having to complete info over and over on websites but I’m starting to reconsider my relationship with cookies. Yep, it certainly does allow shadier companies to rip us off, but what staggers me the most is that the companies involved in dynamic pricing are not what we would classically consider shady – apart from this, I’m a huge fan of Virgin Atlantic, for example. Glad to share the tips about Incognito Mode – kind of ironic that Google is the saviour when it is more commonly criticised for invasion of privacy.

  17. 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 !

    • Monica, thanks for taking the time to share your own experience (even though reading about it makes me mad!) I hope you were able to get to Amsterdam for a decent price. I think what angers me the most is how underhand this is and so I’m happy to share some tips for us consumers to beat the big boys! Happy travels and so nice to hear you love my blog!

  18. 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).

    • Corrine, it’s like they somehow magically know the second that you’re going to hit “buy” – in fact, it’s like the airlines know before I do. I did a quick note on my a few weeks ago and it made me realise how few people knew about this practice, which prompted this article. Lwt’s share this knowledge and hopefully over time the airlines will stop being able to take advantage of good people wanting to take dream trips.

  19. 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!

    • Jonny, that’s outrageous! Yes, often it’s an affordable jump in price terms but that % increase is disgusting. If travel companies are going to be so fast and loose with their pricing, it’s should at least be a legal requirement that they enter into bartering – that would settle the playing field a bit. I haven’t seen this happen with bus prices myself but I suspected the topic was broader. Thanks for sharing the example! And, I’m definitely looking forward to enjoying Colombia!

    • 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.

      • With sites like Facebook I can forsee a situation down the line where your entire circle of friends gets the same increased pricing just to get rid of this situation where you’re on the phone together…but maybe I’m being paranoid…maybe!

  20. 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.

    • Jeff, if my experience is right, this has been going on for year but I’m glad it’s getting more coverage generally because it’s flat out wrong. I believe it’s happening in other places too like with bus tickets except I’ve not personally experienced it – probably because I’m somehow more decisive with buses but Incognito Mode is the way to go!


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