Travel search engines are charging you more for your airline tickets if they know you’ve been searching for them. Clear your cookies and browsing data first!
I just verified this is true with Expedia. I was doing some planning for trips in 2020 and checking various flight options and wrote down the ticket prices.
Then, I cleared out all cookies, went back to Expedia and received price quotes 10-15% lower than before.
Per the comments to this item, it is likely that many airline web sites are doing this (one comment confirms they’d seen this on United.com) but not on all travel sites (priceline and kayak were mentioned as apparently not doing this).
The thinking is that if you search for several flight options, then you must really want to travel – and that means, you’ll be willing to pay a higher price. After an unspecified number of flight searches (some say just 3), they gradually show higher prices.
Update: Old news articles reveal some travel web sites charged more to Mac users, while another charged less to iOS users. Others checked the “cookies” used in ad network tracking in your browser, and if you had visited certain high end retailers, they jacked up the prices. The airlines themselves, according to the Business Travel Coalition, in past testimony to a U.S. House subcommittee said that airlines had a goal of determining a different price for every passenger, thereby making price comparison shopping impossible.
Recommendation when booking travel:
- ALWAYS use the Private or Incognito mode of your browser to (hopefully) avoid making your web history available to web sites – alternatively, always delete your history before visiting each travel web site.
- Visit multiple travel web sites to get price quotes, and then also look at the web site reservation systems of the individual hotels and airlines.
Many people, perhaps, already knew about this. I am not a super experienced traveler and am slowly catching on.