Is clearing your cookies a foolproof strategy for buying cheaper airfare?

People are always looking for ways to “game the system” when it comes to online airline pricing. And why not? To the consumer, it can seem like you just can’t win in the pricing game.

clearing cookies for better airfare

An airfare that was one price for weeks, suddenly spikes $100 when you were just about to finally pull the trigger. A $400 airline ticket to Cancun doubled over night. What gives? It must be that the airlines are watching your every move online and making adjustments to fares. But how would they do this? Recently, the idea that airlines use “dynamic pricing” to track your search history and charge you more based on the frequency you’ve been hunting for that airline ticket has gained some traction with travel bloggers.

So, what’s the magic bullet to combat this dastardly practice by unscrupulous airlines and online travel agents? Why, it’s simple. You just need to clear your cookies – those trace bits of information that your web searches leave behind as record of where you’ve been. Sometimes users on our blog mention this trick, always referencing that a “friend of a friend” or they “know a guy” who mentioned this as the best strategy for getting a better price.

Here’s the thing. We haven’t been able to substantiate this claim. Whenever we hear of a traveler who claims he or she has experienced this phenomenon, we ask for proof. It would be very simple to substantiate – to simply go to another computer or do a search from an anonymous browser window and provide some screen shots. A picture like this would sure be worth a thousand words – er – dollars. Well, you know what we’re getting at.

We don’t think this idea came out of the ether. Like any urban myth, there is a kernel of truth in the idea that fares change on demand. They do, of course. But it’s not based on the interest you have in a flight while you’re shopping. No, the demand that makes a difference in airline pricing is the number of bookings for that destination and itinerary. When bookings pick up, the airlines adjust, and prices tend to rise. When bookings slow, you might very well see airfares dip to try and drum up some interest.

Best in class airfare intelligence is our game and we’re selling airline tickets to customers based on airline pricing, so we think we’ve got our bona fides in order. If there was truth to this theory, we’re pretty sure we’d have seen it for ourselves.

If we haven’t convinced you yet, we challenge any customer, reader or general Internet conspiracy theorist to find us a clear example of dynamic pricing and get in touch with us in the comments section (below) or tweet to us @Cheapair. We’ll be in touch. If you’re up for the challenge, these are the qualifications. We’ll need to see documentation (screen shots and steps to reproduce). If we can validate the claim, we’ll publish your findings in an upcoming blog post. Remember – a great story about “sticking it to the Man” is a great story, but data science requires documentation. We’d love to hear your stories, but we’d love to publish your scientific findings more! Until then, if you’d like to do go down the airline pricing rabbit hole, read our post What the Airlines Never Tell You About Airfares. It’s required reading if you’re into that sort of thing.

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