Sites such as Skyscanner- one of the biggest search engines for flights- claims they are unbiased and that clearing your cookies will not change the price you see on their site.
Fair enough, they´re not responsible for increasing the prices. They´re simply a page which helps you look up all the airlines and the different flights.
How cookies increase prices on flights
A year ago, I experienced it firsthand when I was booking a flight from Oslo to Bangkok. I would roam through Skyscanner every day from both my MacBook and my iPhone. I then started to notice that all the ads on every website I would visit were recommendations for rental cars and hotels in Bangkok.
After about a week, when we were ready to book our flight I discovered that the price had gone up. At this time, I was on the phone with my boyfriend –whom I was going to travel with. I asked him to go in and check the same flights. He was at his mom´s house and therefore he used her computer, which had a clean cookie browser when it came to Bangkok tickets. We then discovered that we were offered the same flights but for totally different prices. On his screen, the tickets were cheaper.
That´s when I decided to go incognito. I began to google keywords like “cookies”, “flights”, “increased price” etc. I stumbled upon this article which states that several travel experts have reported that airlines and booking engines are using cookies to show potentially higher airfares on routes that you have searched often. It goes on explaining that some even think the airlines are tracking IP addresses.
In 2012 The Wall Street Journal reported that Orbitz had found that Apple users spend as much as 30 percent more a night on hotels, so the online travel site is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, options than Windows visitors see.
All the way back in 2001 attorney Robert M. Weiss published a paper called Online Dynamic Pricing. Weiss (2001) writes that cookies allow different sites to store information about your past interactions with that particular web page. Using such stored information, Web sites can tailor subsequent interactions with these users based on past viewing preferences. Likewise, “click-stream” technology allows a Web site to track the paths that users take as they view advertisements, different Web pages on the site, and even links to other sites.
To summarise Weiss´ research we´ve been cookie trapped since the beginning. It´s just now in the later years that the sites are getting more sneaky- and we, the users, are becoming more aware.
For cheaper flights next time; book the tickets from your mother in laws computer.
Mattioli, D. (2012). On Orbitz, Mac Users Steered to Pricier Hotels. Available: https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304458604577488822667325882. Last accessed 07/03/2017.
McGee, B. (2013). Do travel deals change based on your browsing history?. Available: http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/columnist/mcgee/2013/04/03/do-travel-deals-change-based-on-your-browsing-history/2021993/. Last accessed 07/03/2017.
Weiss, R. (2001). Online Dynamic Pricing: Efficiency, Equity and the Future of E-commerce. Available: http://www.vjolt.net/vol6/issue2/v6i2-a11-Weiss.html. Last accessed 07/03/2017.
-. (2017). Do cookies increase flight prices . Available: https://www.skyscanner.net/news/tips/do-cookies-increase-flight-prices/. Last accessed 07/03/2017.
-. (2014). Seven Mistakes to Avoid When Booking a Flight. Available: http://www.independenttraveler.com/travel-tips/travelers-ed/seven-mistakes-to-avoid-when-booking-a-flight. Last accessed 07/03/2017.