Many airlines and travel websites use your search history to track how often you’ve visited their websites.
When you search online, with cookies enabled (this is usually the default setting), the cookie stores details of your session. Airlines track you with cookies. Things like dates, the number of passengers, etc., This is stored locally on your machine so certain analytics can be in place to track something like, say, a specific route you searched. It will determine what’s high in demand and so the price goes up with it.
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The last time I checked for a flight from SFO (San Francisco) to BUE (Buenos Aires) it was $910. Using my desktop computer, I checked but booked no flight since I wasn’t sure if I wanted to fly to Santiago, Chile instead. I came back 2 days later to search for the same flight and was shocked to see the ticket go up to $1,185!
Just what exactly changed?
The flight I would buy was at least 4 months in advance. Being a web application developer who works on client side information tracking, I pulled up my laptop which hasn’t been used for any flight search. I input the same parameters and there it was, back to $910 for the same flight route. I was shocked.
Everything is tracked
Even you aren’t logged in searching for flights, you’re still being tracked. Your account with the airline company and travel sites has your information, and they are tracking you one way or the other. Those emails you get weekly somehow catered to your searches? The Google ads that somehow knows you like to snowboard or ski, or like wearing skimpy pink orange underwear? It’s all stored in cookies. And no not the kind where you get you hand slapped if you reached for it out of a jar. I’m talking about HTTP Cookies.
So how do you make sure you’re not getting jacked when you buy airline tickets? You have a to be step ahead. You browse on a PC with a different IP and then make a purchase in another, but this isn’t always possible. You can use VPNs but then it can get costly.
Pro tip: You can purchase the ticket in a different currency. Sometimes the tickets vary in prices depending on which country it’s being purchased. This is where a VPN can be handy. You simply choose which country the VPN server is located and the application will think you’re buying from that country.
Here are ways to pay less for tickets
The best way is to buy the ticket right off when you first searched for it. It doesn’t give them any chance to modify prices based on your search.
If you have Chrome Browser or Firefox. You can enable “Incognito” mode before searching for your flights. “Pages you view in incognito tabs won’t stick around in your browser’s history, cookie store, or search history after you’ve closed all of your incognito tabs.” Here’s how you go incognito.
Clear your browsing history. Each browser has a way to clear your cookies and browsing history. Typically it’s under Options or Advanced Options tab and make sure the “Delete Cookies” option is checked.
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You can use a different computer, fresh, without your search history, this is the same as buying it right off the bat.
Where I search and buy my flights
These are the sites we have used for many years for all our travels. While prices seldom differ between Orbitz and Expedia they will sometimes differ in their flight schedules.
Google flights: This is reliable. Google isn’t affiliated with any airlines companies, at least to my knowledge, so it probably doesn’t affect your prices. It’s also very efficient at searching for flights.
Matrix ITA: I use this a lot for searching flights. Again, powered by Google and not affiliated with any Airline companies. You can’t book directly here so you must use the results it gives you to buy flights from any of the below. I have a detailed article about how to use the ITA software to book flights HERE.
Orbitz: I use Orbitz to buy my flight tickets. It’s easy to use and tends to give me the best prices. I use my search results from the Matrix ITA software to search for flights and buy here. Use the results from ITA Matrix to an advance search in Orbitz and you’re good to go.
Skyscanner: I use this often and I get good deals from them. It’s like Google Matrix but you can book flight indirectly with them.