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Topic: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: nonimaus
Posted 2011-03-23 06:09:32 and read 22249 times.

I'm probably being a bit naive here, but this story on my favourite, foul-mouthed consumer blog surprised me. According to the story someone looking to book a flight with Ryanair noticed that the price had increased the second time he looked at the site, but when he cleared the cache on his browser, the price reverted to the original that he was quoted on his first visit.

Other's on the site noted that it's a practice that they've noticed on other travel sites, so my question is, is this intentional on the part of airlines and if it is, is it legal? I know that prices fluctuate wildly depending on availability but it seems a little odd for any website to mis-calculate the real price depending on whether you've previously visited.

http://www.bitterwallet.com/save-mon...leting-your-cookies/42133#comments

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: yegbey01
Posted 2011-03-23 06:10:47 and read 22257 times.

This used to happen to me all the time when booking on Air Canada.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: travelavnut
Posted 2011-03-23 06:14:20 and read 22231 times.

If this is the case they should slap the developer responsible silly. If it's intentional, well, I wouldn't know why you want to raise price for repeat visitors of your website. Legal? Why wouldn't it be?

I'm calling Brave Sierra on this one. Although I must say that my 5 year old niece could do a better job than the Ryanair website. When it comes to usability it's one of the worst out there, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's buggy as hell.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: pnqiad
Posted 2011-03-23 06:36:17 and read 22125 times.

I would not be surprised if sites do use dynamic pricing is used. And it is easier for airlines to get away with it since everybody expects airline prices to fluctuate anyways. Amazon.com was caught with a hand in the cookie jar few years ago:

Pay Your Money, or You're Taking a Chance

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: metjetceo
Posted 2011-03-23 06:50:48 and read 22052 times.

Quoting travelavnut (Reply 2):
I'm calling Brave Sierra on this one. Although I must say that my 5 year old niece could do a better job than the Ryanair website. When it comes to usability it's one of the worst out there, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's buggy as hell.

This is an interesting story. When Ryanair started moving and shaking MOL was actually anti internet. He didnt see the value in it, so some of his employees brought in 1-2 college interns for the summer that created a site without his knowledge and then showed it to him after it was live. He loved the idea of booking flights without adding costs (Reservationists) so much he became pro website and possibly even obsessed literally overnight. The site that was designed by those interns (at least the look of it) has remained intact ever since.


As far as cookies go, I am sure all of the airlines have them that track usage, flight views v. bookings, etc., and I would not be surprised if they change the price based on views. I would think an airline would definitley like to know which lanes book better on first views v. repeat visitors v. non bookings, etc. and the usage of a cookie would help determine that. I am sure that top ranking frequent fliers may see more changes than the normal person, too...though I dont have any evidence. That would be my opinion.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: travelavnut
Posted 2011-03-23 07:07:09 and read 21955 times.

Quoting metjetceo (Reply 4):
The site that was designed by those interns (at least the look of it) has remained intact ever since.

 Wow!
Quoting metjetceo (Reply 4):
As far as cookies go, I am sure all of the airlines have them that track usage, flight views v. bookings, etc., and I would not be surprised if they change the price based on views. I would think an airline would definitley like to know which lanes book better on first views v. repeat visitors v. non bookings, etc.

Sounds reasonable when I think about it.

About the Ryanair website;

http://validator.w3.org/check?uri=ht...atically%29&doctype=Inline&group=0

I've seen worse code, but this website violates all usability rules known to man  

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: nonimaus
Posted 2011-03-23 07:12:19 and read 21903 times.

Quoting pnqiad (Reply 3):
Amazon.com was caught with a hand in the cookie jar few years ago:

Thanks for the article link, it's a surprising read. Personally I don't mind so much that a booking I make closer to the date of departure increases in cost because that's something I have control over as a consumer when I choose to fly. The idea of price differences based on browser based variables like the number of visits is skirting close to just kicking your customers in the face and charging a 'bruise-related shoe scuffing fee' for something that very few people could reasonably be expected to know about.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: al2637
Posted 2011-03-23 08:13:12 and read 21673 times.

I've worked on many airlines sites, and this has never even been considered by any of them.

I'd say the issue is more to do with differences between servers in a server farm. Typically when you hit an airlines site, the load balancer will set a session parameter/cookie to your browser, so that it can route you to the same server when you click to the next page (saves having to share session data across multiple servers). If there was different fares/caches/configuration temporarily or in error on one or more server, clearing your cookies could cause you to be routed to a different server.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: IADLHR
Posted 2011-03-23 08:37:10 and read 21559 times.

This is, for me, a really interesting, and timely, subject.

I am preparing for a DCA-DEN-PDX business trip in a few weeks.

Yesterday, on my computer, at work, I was checking fares on the UA website. I found one that was a very, very good fare. Problem was that I had not heard back from the client that the dates, for the trip, were confirmed. A few minutes later, I went back to the UA website and looked up the flights, that I saw, and the fare had juimped $387.00 I was shocked.

One thiong led to another, and I didnt have a chance to make my reservation.

I got home, and used, the computer, at home. I looked up the original flights, and sure enough, there was the original fare. So I made the reservation from home. I was wondering, what all is involved, that causes this. This isnt the first time something like this has happened. However, so far, it is the most extreme.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: HPRamper
Posted 2011-03-23 08:43:00 and read 21538 times.

I've made a habit of searching prices on Expedia, then using the airline websites themselves and making sure the numbers match.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: Pe@rson
Posted 2011-03-23 09:02:17 and read 21451 times.

Quoting travelavnut (Reply 5):
I've seen worse code, but this website violates all usability rules known to man


IdeaWorks, in its Ryanair: The Godfather of Ancillary Revenue report*, said this about FR's website (I added the bold):

"From a pure design perspective, the website also violates conventional wisdom by breaking a long list of accepted design rules:

Be consistent with colors and fonts
Use plenty of white space
Don't make pages too long - users don't like to scroll down too far
Carefully select color
Keep sufficient contrast between the text and background
Use fonts that are appropriate to your content
Don't overuse flashing and animated graphics

And yet, for all its design flaws, Ryanair.com seems to deliver on a golden rule of e-commerce - to generate sales."

* http://www.ideaworkscompany.com/pres...08AnalysisRyanairAncillary2008.pdf

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: metjetceo
Posted 2011-03-23 09:18:52 and read 21365 times.

Let us not forget that some pricing algorithms will change by time of day and day of week...assuming searches during business hours are more likely business travelers and willing to pay more, while weekend searches are cost conscious toursim travelers.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: HPRamper
Posted 2011-03-23 09:36:53 and read 21254 times.

Except weekends are the most expensive days to book because of sheer number of searches. Late evenings during the week are usually the best time to look.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: airbazar
Posted 2011-03-23 09:38:16 and read 21245 times.

I wouldn't be surprised if it happened however with airline prices what most people are experiencing is probably the inherent nature of air fare complexity. With so few seats and so many people searching at any given time (and temporarily holding those seats), fare availability is likely to fluctuate wildly.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: AADC10
Posted 2011-03-23 09:45:21 and read 21211 times.

Quoting IADLHR (Reply 8):
Yesterday, on my computer, at work, I was checking fares on the UA website. I found one that was a very, very good fare. Problem was that I had not heard back from the client that the dates, for the trip, were confirmed. A few minutes later, I went back to the UA website and looked up the flights, that I saw, and the fare had juimped $387.00 I was shocked.

One thiong led to another, and I didnt have a chance to make my reservation.

I got home, and used, the computer, at home. I looked up the original flights, and sure enough, there was the original fare. So I made the reservation from home. I was wondering, what all is involved, that causes this. This isnt the first time something like this has happened. However, so far, it is the most extreme.

There is a good chance that in the time interval between the office and home UA released more seats into the lower cost bucket. This could be due to any number of reasons, most often load but it could also be related to price actions by other carriers.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: blueflyer
Posted 2011-03-23 10:28:25 and read 21020 times.

It happens fairly often on more web sites than just FR's. When a customer starts shopping for fares on a certain route, the appropriate number of seats is removed from the pricing inventory they are looking at and locked in to their "session." The purpose is to make sure any given customer doesn't begin a transaction at a certain price and finds out just before hitting the final Ok after submitting their credit card details that the price has gone up because someone else typed faster and snagged the cheaper seats.

If a customer is shopping around and doesn't end their session correctly (by clicking "Cancel" or "Start a new search" or something similar), the seats will remain assigned to their session and unavailable to others until the session times out, which can take as long as 10 minutes (starting from the last interaction with the booking engine, not when the session actually started). When the session times out, the seats are returned to the pricing inventory they came from and available for anyone.

For people with two browsers (and time to spare), it can sometimes (1) be demonstrated fairly easily provided that they can find seats on any routing where the availability is severely limited. Use browser A to begin a reservation with this very limited number of seats and pause. Open browser B for the same routing, and get a higher fare. Immediately go back to browser A (before the session for browser A times out) and continue the booking. The lower fare is still available.

(1) may not work all the time either depending on how a web server defines a session

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: RamblinMan
Posted 2011-03-23 10:56:31 and read 20932 times.

Quoting HPRamper (Reply 9):
I've made a habit of searching prices on Expedia, then using the airline websites themselves and making sure the numbers match.

Expedia is an egregious offender at this kind of pricing "game." "Hurry, only 2 seats left!!!!!!"

That being said, it's not unique to the travel industry. You'll get better insurance quotes using Chrome than Firefox, which in turn yields better rates than IE.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: AM744
Posted 2011-03-23 11:15:56 and read 20841 times.

Quoting travelavnut (Reply 2):
If it's intentional, well, I wouldn't know why you want to raise price for repeat visitors of your website.

To add to the pressure and lead the consumer to buy right away. Somewhat dishonest if you ask me.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: Aloha717200
Posted 2011-03-23 11:20:11 and read 20801 times.

Quoting al2637 (Reply 7):
I've worked on many airlines sites, and this has never even been considered by any of them.

I find it intriguing that they wouldn't consider it, after the experiences I've had booking online.

What I've found, while shopping different flights and routings for different dates, is that the more I look at the prices, the more the prices go up. For example, I recently was checking a routing from NCL-PIH using Expedia, Orbitz, and other sites, as well as Delta's website directly, seeing which dates would be the least expensive for the flight. My itinerary is flexible, so it came down to cost.

What I found is that the prices kept going up the more I checked them. then, when I finally decided to book a flight, I was informed "sorry, the price of your flight has changed" and it would skyrocket to a completely unaffordable price.

I started out with the cheapest itinerary at 782 dollars. Then it when to 928, and when I finally booked, I paid 1157. These are for the lowest cost itineraries as checked over a 48 hour time period. That means that for a flight that's 6 months away, over 48 hours, the lowest fare jumped by 375 dollars.

After I bought my tickets, I revisted the sites two weeks later to see how much they'd risen since. they topped out at just a little over 1200 dollars. So, in essence, the fares stopped skyrocketing after I stopped checking them so often.

They DO play this game with the fares.

And just to be sure, I checked the fares from a different computer as I was doing this, and got completely different prices. Case in point: the fare I paid 1157 for was listed at over $1400 on my home PC. For the same segments.

It's infuriating, because it forces one into a "panic buy" to stop the fare from rising even further. It also means you can't get a decent idea of what fares really are cheaper. They change as soon as you look at them. That original 782 dollar fare, I tried to book it and it wouldn't let me. Got on the phone to Expedia only to be told that I needed to wait for the price to "go up" before I could book it, as it was an old fare. It's like come on, if you list a fare, you should honor it.

Additionally, the same fare was astronomically higher on Delta's own website. And orbitz was playing the exact same game with flights. I tried to book the same segments there for a lower price, and was also told the price had changed. It's bait and switch.

[Edited 2011-03-23 11:21:29]

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: jgw787
Posted 2011-03-23 11:33:47 and read 20738 times.

yah its true...put your computer if its a mac to private browsing

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: speedbrds
Posted 2011-03-23 11:37:17 and read 20695 times.

That's happened to me on many airlines' websites. Usually just closing the browser and restarting works fine. I remember looking up a flight and then checked a few minutes again after checking other and the flight went up 20+%.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: eisenbach
Posted 2011-03-23 11:46:50 and read 20544 times.

This happened to me with Jetstar - I had to clear my cookies

Austrian, Lufthansa, Finnair, Emirates and Niki/AirBerlin seem to have "stable" prices.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: ZKCIF
Posted 2011-03-23 13:42:53 and read 19214 times.

as per Reply 21, "Austrian, Lufthansa, Finnair, Emirates and Niki/AirBerlin seem to have "stable" prices."

When I buy something, i AM a long-browser. Of what I have flown, I can assure you LAN, Avianca, Aerolineas Argentinas, Qantas, Virgin Blue and Air New Zealand do not cheat this way, either.
However, after checking Singapore Airlines fares more than twice, they tended to go up (I observed that when willing to book LHR-SIN-AKL in 2008 (not 100% sure) and again in 2010, this one, 100% sure).

[Edited 2011-03-23 14:11:03]

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: BlueBus
Posted 2011-03-23 14:16:07 and read 18868 times.

I think there is a lot that goes into the changes of prices and they can change at anytime. I normally just buy me ticket and never look back. Not worth seeing that they went up.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: peterinlisbon
Posted 2011-03-23 14:25:31 and read 18761 times.

It actually used to be possible, by copying and pasting the code in the address bar, to trick the ryanair website into allowing you to buy two or more flights in one go and therefore only have to pay the credit card fee once. What annoys me about it now is having to enter all of the information and have to say no to all of their extras several times, whereas most other airlines will let you select several flights to create a single itinerary and you pay for it all at the end.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: lhrnue
Posted 2011-03-23 15:12:51 and read 18446 times.

Quoting eisenbach (Reply 21):
Austrian, Lufthansa, Finnair, Emirates and Niki/AirBerlin seem to have "stable" prices.

I don't agree with Emirates. Emirates went up until I deleated the cookies. I was using the UK page 1 year ago.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: goblin211
Posted 2011-03-23 15:53:50 and read 18079 times.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, whatever earns the airlines more       works! It's always been this way but I wouldn't say you're naive b/c I didn't know the prices did this daily! It's usually every week or month or whenever. Good question.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: WJV04
Posted 2011-03-23 16:40:56 and read 17672 times.

I cant remember specifically what airline, I believe it was Aeromexico, but this indeed did happen to me. Clearing the cache dropped the price to what it was when I viewed it the first time. Amadaus airline software has this built in to it, where as Sabre does not.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: cschleic
Posted 2011-03-23 17:35:25 and read 17216 times.

I'm sure I've seen different prices when checking on two different computers at nearly the same time.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: cpd
Posted 2011-03-23 18:03:57 and read 17009 times.

Quoting travelavnut (Reply 5):
I've seen worse code, but this website violates all usability rules known to man

Lots of moving and flashing elements too - worst practice design.

It's just a really poorly designed site, massive length (too much content below the fold), cramped, excessive space where not needed, not enough space where it is needed.

However, this prices game can be prevented to a degree by clearing cache, cookies and Flash cookies.

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: Kirkseattle
Posted 2011-03-23 18:56:03 and read 16653 times.

I received an email from Alaska - Subject line was "Don't forget to book your trip to Orlando!" Yikes! I received it two days after browsing. No, I haven't gone back to look at the fare....yet.


Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: faro
Posted 2011-03-24 01:23:00 and read 14948 times.

Now the question is whether this cookie-inflation practice is legal or not.

To my mind it is not a transparent pricing practice since it is not general in nature. If (regardless of cookie usage) all clients get a quoted fare at 100% the first time they make an enquiry and then *systematically and irrevocably* get a quoted fare at 110% the second time they make an enquiry then the practice -be it via cookies or telephone or whatnot- is consistent and therefore transparent.

If however there is a non-trivial way to circumvent the second enquiry mark-up, then there is discrimination: computer-literate clients are at an advantage compared to the others. IMHO, the airlines would then be liable to legal action. I for one would very much like to see airlines get mightily whacked for this underhand pricing tactic. It is simply not honest to make people pay more for airline tickets because of their IT ignorance. From a logical -and therefore legal- point of view, there is no link between the two. It's like being charged more at your local supermarket because you don't have a driver's licence.

Faro

[Edited 2011-03-24 02:15:59]

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: TransIsland
Posted 2011-03-24 02:51:57 and read 14543 times.

This exact thing happened to me with DL tickets SDF-ATL-NAS one-way. First time looking, roughly $150... when I had confirmation from my employer that my request for professional leave was granted... about $600 one-way. So I booked AA instead and paid $250. A few days later, from a different computer, DL was back down to the original $150.

As there were four of us travelling (took my wife and kids along), this was $400 we ended up paying more, and DL trying to rip us off of about $1,800.  

Topic: RE: Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices
Username: hal9213
Posted 2011-03-24 09:14:54 and read 13341 times.

I can confirm this "dynamic" pricing from experience, too.

- KLM seemed to vary prices according to the time of day. (at least 3 years ago, when they still had the engine with the monthly view). Searching the same fare over and over in 3 days concluded, that during the day was cheaper than in the evening / night.

- Lufthansa seemed to count the general requests made for a route (again, over a year ago). A party with several people searching the route on the site a gazillion times in a row seemed to make the price go up. After some hours or even the next day, price seemed to be back down.

- On BA just recently, after searching a specific route for a certain date, the price for only that date went up. Being depressed I searched the same on another computer, got the initial low price, and immediately booked it.

Quoting faro (Reply 31):
It's like being charged more at your local supermarket because you don't have a driver's licence.

I guess that example is not suitable. In fact, being more expensive because of convenience would be perfectly fine. Try shopping electronics at Akihabara in Tokyo. The further away from the station, the cheaper the same commodity. Rents are also more expensive in the city center. This affects everyone.
So, my KLM and LH example, I would consider ok, as it affects everyone. However, generating personalized statistics to check, how willing an individual customer would be to pay an overcharged price, is pretty discriminating.

This is like buying street-food in Asia: If you wear a suit, they charge you more than normal.


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