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Airline Site's Cookies Affecting Ticket Prices  
User currently offlinenonimaus From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2011, 82 posts, RR: 0
Posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 23260 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

33 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineyegbey01 From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 1725 posts, RR: 3
Reply 1, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 23268 times:

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

User currently offlinetravelavnut From Netherlands, joined May 2010, 1611 posts, RR: 7
Reply 2, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 23242 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.



Live From Amsterdam!
User currently offlinepnqiad From India, joined May 2006, 586 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 23136 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


User currently offlinemetjetceo From United States of America, joined Jun 2007, 412 posts, RR: 1
Reply 4, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 23063 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.


User currently offlinetravelavnut From Netherlands, joined May 2010, 1611 posts, RR: 7
Reply 5, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 22966 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  



Live From Amsterdam!
User currently offlinenonimaus From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2011, 82 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 22914 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.


User currently offlineal2637 From Ireland, joined Oct 2006, 407 posts, RR: 3
Reply 7, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 22684 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.


User currently offlineIADLHR From Italy, joined Apr 2005, 735 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 22570 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.


User currently offlineHPRamper From United States of America, joined May 2005, 4057 posts, RR: 8
Reply 9, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 22549 times:

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

User currently offlinePe@rson From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 19220 posts, RR: 52
Reply 10, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 22462 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



"Everyone writing for the Telegraph knows that the way to grab eyeballs is with Ryanair and/or sex."
User currently offlinemetjetceo From United States of America, joined Jun 2007, 412 posts, RR: 1
Reply 11, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 22376 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.

User currently offlineHPRamper From United States of America, joined May 2005, 4057 posts, RR: 8
Reply 12, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 22265 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.

User currently onlineairbazar From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 8326 posts, RR: 10
Reply 13, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 22256 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.

User currently offlineAADC10 From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 2088 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 22222 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.


User currently offlineblueflyer From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 3972 posts, RR: 2
Reply 15, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 22031 times:
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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



I've got $h*t to do
User currently offlineRamblinMan From United States of America, joined Oct 2010, 1138 posts, RR: 1
Reply 16, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks ago) and read 21943 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.


User currently offlineAM744 From Mexico, joined Jun 2001, 1777 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks ago) and read 21852 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.


User currently offlineAloha717200 From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 4480 posts, RR: 15
Reply 18, posted (3 years 5 months 2 weeks ago) and read 21812 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]

User currently offlinejgw787 From United States of America, joined Dec 2010, 208 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (3 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 21749 times:

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

User currently offlinespeedbrds From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 98 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (3 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 21706 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+%.

User currently offlineeisenbach From Austria, joined Mar 2001, 112 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (3 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 21555 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.



Do228, Saab340, Twin-Otter, C212, Fokker50, AN24, ATR42, ATR72, Dash8-400Q, MD90, MD83, EMB120, A300, A343, B721, B743,.
User currently offlineZKCIF From Lithuania, joined Oct 2010, 296 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (3 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 20225 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]

User currently offlineBlueBus From United States of America, joined Feb 2011, 81 posts, RR: 0
Reply 23, posted (3 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 19879 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.

User currently offlinepeterinlisbon From Portugal, joined Jan 2006, 508 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (3 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 19772 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.

25 lhrnue : I don't agree with Emirates. Emirates went up until I deleated the cookies. I was using the UK page 1 year ago.
26 Post contains images goblin211 : 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
27 WJV04 : 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
28 cschleic : I'm sure I've seen different prices when checking on two different computers at nearly the same time.
29 cpd : 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
30 Post contains images Kirkseattle : 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 ha
31 faro : 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 genera
32 Post contains images TransIsland : 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
33 hal9213 : 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
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