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(Telegraph)   Nothing you didn't already suspect, but thanks to cookies, airline web sites know what flights you are looking for and will jack up the prices on suitable routes before serving them to you   (telegraph.co.uk) divider line 30
    More: Scary, airlines, fares  
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1363 clicks; posted to Business » on 26 Feb 2014 at 10:38 AM (26 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



30 Comments   (+0 »)
   
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2014-02-26 10:16:29 AM
FTA: I have certainly heard rumours of this sort, but I have never experienced it myself, nor seen convincing evidence that it happens systematically.

So basically the article says the opposite of what the headline claims it says.
 
2014-02-26 10:41:39 AM
One of the things the internet has done is make it easier for them (all of them) to take our money.
 
2014-02-26 10:42:59 AM

CruiserTwelve: FTA: I have certainly heard rumours of this sort, but I have never experienced it myself, nor seen convincing evidence that it happens systematically.

So basically the article says the opposite of what the headline claims it says.


And then invites everyone reading it to chime in with their own anecdotal bullsh#t. Did someone actually get paid to type this out?  I celebrate the New Journalism.
 
2014-02-26 10:45:56 AM
So all a competing airline has to do is not artificially inflate their prices and they are automatically at a price advantage over their competitors.

This sort of thing only works with a monopoly or collusion.
 
2014-02-26 10:51:35 AM
How effective would it be to use a private browser window and restart it between searches?
 
2014-02-26 10:53:49 AM
IIRC, Expedia was found to be giving higher prices to users of some devices (usually Apple ones) since they thought those customers would be willing to pay more.

But as for the airlines doing this, I'm not sure how it would be in their best interest to try it; sure, they might get another $30 out of you for the round trip. They might also lose your business entirely.

It's also possible, depending on how many times and over what duration you are searching, that the airfare is indeed going up because other people are booking those flights and the remaining seats increase in price (if the airplane is empty, they keep prices low in order to entice people to book a fair, if it fills up they can raise prices as demand is higher).
 
2014-02-26 10:57:59 AM
Cool Annecdote, Bro:

Under the old Rapid Rewards system with Southwest, it became very obvious to me that if you searched for eligible flights and didn't immediately book the flight, more often than not, the "ideal" flight would no longer be available even a few minutes later. After losing a few flights to that practice, or whatever it was, I learned to "game" the system by searching for flights on days or at times I didn't want, which would show as unavailable, and usually the flights that I did want were available as a "consolation prize". Maybe it was just me, but for several years I milked that system pretty hard. I also knew that different computers (different IPs and cookies) showed different results.

So, yeah, there may be something to TFA...

/CAB
 
2014-02-26 11:24:10 AM

beezeltown: Cool Annecdote, Bro:

Under the old Rapid Rewards system with Southwest, it became very obvious to me that if you searched for eligible flights and didn't immediately book the flight, more often than not, the "ideal" flight would no longer be available even a few minutes later. After losing a few flights to that practice, or whatever it was, I learned to "game" the system by searching for flights on days or at times I didn't want, which would show as unavailable, and usually the flights that I did want were available as a "consolation prize". Maybe it was just me, but for several years I milked that system pretty hard. I also knew that different computers (different IPs and cookies) showed different results.

So, yeah, there may be something to TFA...

/CAB


Hmm. What would be the rationale behind that? They know exactly what you are looking for so they take it away? Doesn't make sense.

If they raised prices for the "ideal" flight I can understand the business rationale. But presumably they would know the ideal flight before anyone searches based on previous demand, and price accordingly.

Were you limiting your searches by price, perhaps? So flights would disappear from your search if they raised the price?
 
2014-02-26 11:25:18 AM
Question: Does this happen?
Response: Here is how you could test this theory.  I didn't actually do the test, but maybe one of my readers will and then send me the results so I don't have to do any actual work.


Why am I reading your column again?
 
2014-02-26 11:28:13 AM

CruiserTwelve: FTA: I have certainly heard rumours of this sort, but I have never experienced it myself, nor seen convincing evidence that it happens systematically.

So basically the article says the opposite of what the headline claims it says.


Even worse, the 'Expert' here didn't even bother to try out the theory.  He explains how to test out the theory, but he doesn't actually perform the test and provide us with the results he got.  You know, the kind of thing an informative article would do.  So really no information is provided here.

But at least he included a pic of a hot chick.
 
2014-02-26 11:33:46 AM

Debeo Summa Credo: beezeltown: Cool Annecdote, Bro:

Under the old Rapid Rewards system with Southwest, it became very obvious to me that if you searched for eligible flights and didn't immediately book the flight, more often than not, the "ideal" flight would no longer be available even a few minutes later. After losing a few flights to that practice, or whatever it was, I learned to "game" the system by searching for flights on days or at times I didn't want, which would show as unavailable, and usually the flights that I did want were available as a "consolation prize". Maybe it was just me, but for several years I milked that system pretty hard. I also knew that different computers (different IPs and cookies) showed different results.

So, yeah, there may be something to TFA...

/CAB

Hmm. What would be the rationale behind that? They know exactly what you are looking for so they take it away? Doesn't make sense.

If they raised prices for the "ideal" flight I can understand the business rationale. But presumably they would know the ideal flight before anyone searches based on previous demand, and price accordingly.

Were you limiting your searches by price, perhaps? So flights would disappear from your search if they raised the price?


Because if you make your plans after searching for the flight, then come back to find out it can only be purchased for cash, you are more likely to do that than change the rest of your plans.

Of course, I'd book the flight first. But I have to imagine there are some who wouldn't.
 
2014-02-26 11:35:25 AM

Debeo Summa Credo: What would be the rationale behind that?


Airlines are more than happy for you to *earn* miles (ie, pay for flights).  However, they don't want you to *use* miles (get 'free' flights).  Frequent flyer programs often have many restrictions upon redeeming miles, including a limited number of seats per flight available for booking with miles, blackout dates, and the expiration of miles you have earned if not used within a certain amount of time, all in the name of preventing you from using those miles.

/Ric Romero reporting
 
2014-02-26 12:13:36 PM
Just delete cookies before booking. The price goes back down
 
2014-02-26 12:23:27 PM
I'm scouring your browser cookies right now, and all I can say is you are one sick bastard and we have cranked up the price of your flight to Thailand by $1200.
 
2014-02-26 12:26:06 PM

NightSteel: Debeo Summa Credo: What would be the rationale behind that?

Airlines are more than happy for you to *earn* miles (ie, pay for flights).  However, they don't want you to *use* miles (get 'free' flights).  Frequent flyer programs often have many restrictions upon redeeming miles, including a limited number of seats per flight available for booking with miles, blackout dates, and the expiration of miles you have earned if not used within a certain amount of time, all in the name of preventing you from using those miles.

/Ric Romero reporting


Oops. I missed the "rapid rewards" part.

Makes sense now. Thanks.
 
2014-02-26 12:34:21 PM
Had something similar happen when I was trying to get the introductory rates for DirecTV. If you ever sign into your account on a computer you can never see the regular web site that non-customers see, even after signing out.

On another fun note, go into your temporary internet files folder and see how many of the files there say "google" on them. Yesterday I cleaned nearly 6,500 of them off of my work computer.
Also doing ctrl f "doubleclick" turns up no results. But there are hundreds of them there. Strange.

/ I dropped DirecTV
 
2014-02-26 01:35:43 PM
I recently put something in my shopping cart on Amazon and then asked a question about it.  Came back the next day to read the answers and found that Amazon had jacked the price up, so I searched for it on other sites instead.  Every one of the sites that had a better price said the product was out of stock.  Coincidentally they were all Amazon affiliates.  I cleared my cookies and searched again and magically the product was found on an independent site, lower price than Amazon and ready to ship.
 
2014-02-26 01:41:59 PM

FTA:

it is more likely to be caused by another customer buying flights in the interim period


Exactly this. I have to go back and re-find flights all the time (because I have to wait for travel approval from my boss). Sometimes, of she takes too long, the price is higher (and I have to go through the approval process again). But it is rare.

Also: If your first search is done 14 days (or more) before the flight, and your second search is only 13 days (or less) before the flight, guess what? The fare goes up.

Move along.
 
2014-02-26 01:48:05 PM

Debeo Summa Credo: NightSteel: Debeo Summa Credo: What would be the rationale behind that?

Airlines are more than happy for you to *earn* miles (ie, pay for flights).  However, they don't want you to *use* miles (get 'free' flights).  Frequent flyer programs often have many restrictions upon redeeming miles, including a limited number of seats per flight available for booking with miles, blackout dates, and the expiration of miles you have earned if not used within a certain amount of time, all in the name of preventing you from using those miles.

/Ric Romero reporting

Oops. I missed the "rapid rewards" part.

Makes sense now. Thanks.


more like rapist rewards, am i right?
 
2014-02-26 02:05:58 PM

akula: IIRC, Expedia was found to be giving higher prices to users of some devices (usually Apple ones) since they thought those customers would be willing to pay more.

But as for the airlines doing this, I'm not sure how it would be in their best interest to try it; sure, they might get another $30 out of you for the round trip. They might also lose your business entirely.

It's also possible, depending on how many times and over what duration you are searching, that the airfare is indeed going up because other people are booking those flights and the remaining seats increase in price (if the airplane is empty, they keep prices low in order to entice people to book a fair, if it fills up they can raise prices as demand is higher).


I've heard other stories, as well. One of them had screenshots of the same sites using 3 major browsers with wildly different prices.
 
2014-02-26 02:37:41 PM

Debeo Summa Credo: beezeltown: Cool Annecdote, Bro:

Under the old Rapid Rewards system with Southwest, it became very obvious to me that if you searched for eligible flights and didn't immediately book the flight, more often than not, the "ideal" flight would no longer be available even a few minutes later. After losing a few flights to that practice, or whatever it was, I learned to "game" the system by searching for flights on days or at times I didn't want, which would show as unavailable, and usually the flights that I did want were available as a "consolation prize". Maybe it was just me, but for several years I milked that system pretty hard. I also knew that different computers (different IPs and cookies) showed different results.

So, yeah, there may be something to TFA...

/CAB

Hmm. What would be the rationale behind that? They know exactly what you are looking for so they take it away? Doesn't make sense.

If they raised prices for the "ideal" flight I can understand the business rationale. But presumably they would know the ideal flight before anyone searches based on previous demand, and price accordingly.

Were you limiting your searches by price, perhaps? So flights would disappear from your search if they raised the price?


Under the old Rapid Rewards, you received "free flights", not miles, subject to significant restrictions. So, BWI-LAX was a "flight" requiring the same reward as LUV-HOU. By "ideal flight", I generally meant flights on/around weekends heading from middle-US to anywhere warm and/or inviting. For us, it was often Louisville to/from LAX, Oakland or SFO, New Orleans, or South Florida. If I wanted to depart Saturday of a Monday Holiday weekend (MLK, President's, etc), returning the following Sunday (4 vacation days for an 8-day vacation trip), the flights were always unavailable on those two days. Their calendar would show departures of Sunday or Monday, and returns of following Friday or Monday. IF, however, I queried the same destination, departing Thursday and returning the following Friday, for example, at least 2/3 of the time, those days were unavailable, and the Saturday/Sunday depart/return I wanted were offered instead.

The motivation for them doing this is simple--if they don't offer the flights you want for your free flight, you are more likely to purchase at least a part of the trip, or to abandon the booking altogether. Either way, they weren't giving away seats, while maintaining the appearance of still offering flight options. By "gaming" the system, though, it wasn't too hard to get what I really wanted, as long as I would stage it as accepting the "counter offer".

With our credit card, we racked up 4-5 free flights per year. This was often the transport for our vacations--spending a lot of time in CA, Florida, and getting to LAX to connect to Hawaii (MUCH cheaper than KY-HI, even with a layover hotel). The program changed, though, and now it is a miles program; nothing special. Though it used to be a pain to navigate, we were getting cross-country flights for the equivalent of 19,200 miles. Basically a $700-1000 flight for ~$200 worth of "points".

With the baby now, vacations are a thing of the past, and maybe again in the not-so-near future.
 
2014-02-26 02:56:30 PM
I'm a travel agent and I can say for certain this happens. I have 100% proof that's it's happened to myself and a few of my clients a few times.

That said, people don't do themselves any favors by checking the same itineraries constantly for 2 weeks before buying.

Just buy what you want when you know you want it, don't waste weeks of your life to save $6, it's pathetic. And for the love of God, after you buy the flight stop looking at prices for what you just bought and don't assume you can get a refund a week later if it's $20 cheaper. You can't do that with cars and you can't do that with airlines.
 
2014-02-26 03:11:11 PM
No.
 
2014-02-26 04:58:54 PM

chicken licken: Just delete cookies before booking. The price goes back down


If this were true and they were using cookies, your solution would work.  However, if this really is a thing, going forward companies will be using persona management more and more to track your movement through their sites, and use that data to jack up your rates instead.  Even if you don't sign in, there is enough information about you being gathered based on your browsing patterns, especially if the airlines use/share common datasets (picture Orbitz, Kayak, and Travelocity pooling their data) that they know who you are anyway.  They'll know that five months ago you looked into airline flights to Chicago to visit Nana and adjust prices on flights to Chicago accordingly.

This type of thing is already possible and is being adopted.  Source:  I work for a company that produces software that does this exact thing.
 
2014-02-26 06:50:44 PM

Monkeyhouse Zendo: So all a competing airline has to do is not artificially inflate their prices and they are automatically at a price advantage over their competitors.

This sort of thing only works with a monopoly or collusion.


I'm guessing you haven't dealt with the airline industry much.

Pricing between competitors is absurdly transparent in the airline industry.  And the industry is already highly concentrated

Add to that the hub-and-spoke model, which makes the industry inherently oligopolistic, and it's easy to penalize someone for cutting prices.
 
2014-02-26 08:43:44 PM

RickyWilliams'sBong: Monkeyhouse Zendo: So all a competing airline has to do is not artificially inflate their prices and they are automatically at a price advantage over their competitors.

This sort of thing only works with a monopoly or collusion.

I'm guessing you haven't dealt with the airline industry much.

Pricing between competitors is absurdly transparent in the airline industry.  And the industry is already highly concentrated

Add to that the hub-and-spoke model, which makes the industry inherently oligopolistic, and it's easy to penalize someone for cutting prices.


So, I'm usually pretty liberal and critical of corporations, and I hate flying, but one thing I hardly think we as consumers can complain about is airfare.  Yes, over the last 20 years it has been a race to the bottom in terms of service, but fortunately price has also joined in the rapid descent, has it not?  Or am I missing something?
 
2014-02-26 10:10:16 PM

HotIgneous Intruder: One of the things the internet has done is make it easier for them (all of them) to take our money.


P.T. Barnum died much too soon.
 
2014-02-27 12:51:54 PM

Yankees Team Gynecologist: RickyWilliams'sBong: Monkeyhouse Zendo: So all a competing airline has to do is not artificially inflate their prices and they are automatically at a price advantage over their competitors.

This sort of thing only works with a monopoly or collusion.

I'm guessing you haven't dealt with the airline industry much.

Pricing between competitors is absurdly transparent in the airline industry.  And the industry is already highly concentrated

Add to that the hub-and-spoke model, which makes the industry inherently oligopolistic, and it's easy to penalize someone for cutting prices.

So, I'm usually pretty liberal and critical of corporations, and I hate flying, but one thing I hardly think we as consumers can complain about is airfare.  Yes, over the last 20 years it has been a race to the bottom in terms of service, but fortunately price has also joined in the rapid descent, has it not?  Or am I missing something?


Here's a decent article from The Atlantic about what happened and how. There's a whole lot of history in that article, but my takeaway is this: How much does a ticket from New York to LA cost? There's no easy answer, because airline pricing has become so complex and situation-dependent that it's not a number that the average American can internalize. You can ask me how much a good used car costs and I'll be able to ballpark you a number. I have a mental picture of what the used car market is like, based on historical trends, and it's a market without very much volatility. With airline prices, however, the volatility is built in. A ticket that's $500 this week might have been $300 a month ago and might be back to $300 next week. Or so I presume, because ticket prices don't make a damn bit of sense to me and are so finely tuned by algorithms that they defy easy understanding.

Because of that market volatility, we as consumers haven't internalized that a plane ticket from New York to LA cost $1,442 (adjusted for inflation) in 1974, yet that same fare today could probably be found for less than $300. The reason for that is we don't track inflation, and we can't internalize the built-in complexity of airline pricing schemes. Finally, although a lot of people fly from New York to LA and vice versa, for the rest of us out here in the boonies, it is much more expensive to fly, even taking inflation into account, as airlines have merged and eliminated service. Flying out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, for example, costs $150 more per ticket on average than it did 10 years ago, while Chicago O'Hare is roughly the same price, and JFK from New York actually dropped by about 50 bucks.
 
2014-02-27 01:41:26 PM

Yankees Team Gynecologist: So, I'm usually pretty liberal and critical of corporations, and I hate flying, but one thing I hardly think we as consumers can complain about is airfare.  Yes, over the last 20 years it has been a race to the bottom in terms of service, but fortunately price has also joined in the rapid descent, has it not?  Or am I missing something?


No, it hasn't.

data.bls.gov
 
2014-02-27 08:28:07 PM

phyrkrakr: Finally, although a lot of people fly from New York to LA and vice versa, for the rest of us out here in the boonies, it is much more expensive to fly, even taking inflation into account, as airlines have merged and eliminated service.


So, there was a time when flying out of the boonies was cheap?  If so, seems like it would've been an aberration than any kind of trend.  I find it hard to believe that the race to the bottom still has not helped overall.

RickyWilliams'sBong: No, it hasn't.


Is that specific to airfare?
 
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