/ Booking Flights and Cookies

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Experienced something today on the Lufthansa web site which I hadn't realised was quite so prevalent, especially not with what you might consider an 'A' brand.

Got a quote set up on for some flights from Manchester to Munich. Didn't complete it first time since I was looking for alternatives and it timed out. Went back and filled it out again and suddenly the return flight had doubled in price. Following advice I cleared my browser history (cookies) and went back on and got the lower price quote again.

Lesson - browse incognito or clear your history when actually paying for the booked flights.

This was on Safari on the Mac. Interestingly it didn't seem to happen on Chrome on the Mac.

Alan
profitofdoom on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Yes this is common. Another method is to search on one device but do the final booking on another
Doug on 14 Sep 2017

Eurostar often do the same, but as you say can be overcome by clearing cookies. Using different browsers on the same computer also works & allows easy comparison
Post edited at 18:19
Frank the Husky - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

There was an investigation on R4 into this, questioning whether it was an urban myth or not. It turns out to be a real thing as you've discovered. I always use my laptop to make the final booking after searching on the desktop.

Sean Kelly - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Would not searching in a private window achieve the same?
Stig - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to Frank the Husky: I got really stung by Monarch once. Bastards.

Glyno - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Sean Kelly:

> Would not searching in a private window achieve the same?

I've also been advised to use incognito mode when searching for car insurance quotes
Bob Hughes - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> This was on Safari on the Mac. Interestingly it didn't seem to happen on Chrome on the Mac.

Delta got done a few years back for showing higher prices to people who searched using Safari. The logic was that Mac users were less price sensitive.
yorkshire_lad2 on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

At the moment, it's cookies that are used for tracking users on booking sites. Now that all the customers have discovered that cookies are the issue, are using incognito mode and clearing the caches, the providers will have found another way to track people using their sites to inflate the prices. caveat emptor...?

It's a bit like the car hire scams
first it was "you've got a scratch, and it's £5m to repair it (which we may/or may not do but you won't know after you've gone home)" so we all learnt to take photos at pick-up and drop-off
then it was "you need to buy our really expensive bolt-on super expensive insurance under pressure otherwise we'll sting you with horrible excesses" so we all learnt to buy our own free-standing policies and looked smug
next it's "we're going to give you an upgrade (and we won't tell you about the 'extra' charge that you don't need to worry about and it'll be fine and you just need to clear it when you return (at which point you'll be in a hurry to check in for your flight, there'll be no-one to ask, and the only person you can possibly find will just tell you the price is as agreed at the outset...)

caveat emptor.....
Rob Parsons on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Bob Hughes:

> Delta got done a few years back for showing higher prices to people who searched using Safari. The logic was that Mac users were less price sensitive.

How did they 'get done', do you know? Is there any suggestion that any of this kind of thing is illegal?

As yorkshire_lad2 notes, the cat is out of the bag: tracking people is already being done by methods other than cookies. In that respect, when you see a price for *anything* on-line, how do you know whether or not it bears any relation to the price being offered to other people for the same thing? Fact is, you don't: those days are over.
LastBoyScout on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

To be honest, I think they are also using server-side tracking - if enough people start looking for flights on a specific route on around the same date, then the price seems to creep up.
Hugh Mongous - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Bit worrying that you have to book cookies in advance. What about bagels?
Martin W on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Frank the Husky:

> There was an investigation on R4 into this, questioning whether it was an urban myth or not. It turns out to be a real thing

Can you provide a reference for that?
Frank the Husky - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Martin W:

No, but it happened. I think it was Money Box.
In reply to LastBoyScout:

> To be honest, I think they are also using server-side tracking - if enough people start looking for flights on a specific route on around the same date, then the price seems to creep up.

Well increasing prices with number of bookings is fair enough. That is their business model - increase price with demand. It was the clever thing low-cost airlines did since previously it has always been reduce the price to sell off the last few seats.

Increasing price with 'interest' is a step further but not exactly immoral.

Alan

Alan Bates on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Hmmm you've got me wondering again now. I thought I was doing ok clearing cache, using different devices etc., but would they not also know if requests are coming from the same IP address?
Marq - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Yes, they also look at IP addresses as well hence clearing cookies doesn't always work!

Marq
Dauphin on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to yorkshire_lad2:

Use a VPN to circumvent I.P. tracking for buying tickets from gazzumping airlines.

D
In reply to Alan Bates:

> Hmmm you've got me wondering again now. I thought I was doing ok clearing cache, using different devices etc., but would they not also know if requests are coming from the same IP address?

Well the main indicator that you are being monitored is the price going up dramatically in a short space of time. Obviously these prices do increase from time to time, so you could just be unlucky, but my return fair doubled and that seems excessive.

I think that there is no need to be totally paranoid until you actually experience an sudden increase, after all, they still want to use low prices to suck you in initially.

Of course the main thing to remember when booking flights is to use the 'buddy system'. Get someone else to check that the flights you have on screen are on the right days, going to the correct airports, and in the right direction. How many times have I cocked one of these up!

Alan
Rob Parsons on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> Increasing price with 'interest' is a step further but not exactly immoral.

'Morality' (*) has nothing to do with it. It's capitalism, baby - and it's exactly why the big Internet-based companies scarf as much data about you as possible: they learn what you want, how much you might willingly pay for it, and can then arrange for you to get a 'unique' price accordingly.

(*) 'Legality' is really the only salient question.
Post edited at 15:00
Toerag - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Bob Hughes:

> Delta got done a few years back for showing higher prices to people who searched using Safari. The logic was that Mac users had more money than sense.

FTFY ;-)

I've also wondered if the '3 seats left at this price' thing is also tweaked to encourage you to buy? I've heard that prices are also inflated during working hours because that's when business users are making their bookings.
Bob Hughes - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Rob Parsons:

> How did they 'get done', do you know? Is there any suggestion that any of this kind of thing is illegal?

> As yorkshire_lad2 notes, the cat is out of the bag: tracking people is already being done by methods other than cookies. In that respect, when you see a price for *anything* on-line, how do you know whether or not it bears any relation to the price being offered to other people for the same thing? Fact is, you don't: those days are over.

i'm trying to remember - i posted that from memory and i must admit i don't remember the details. I know for sure that there was a dust up when someone found out they were charging their elite loyalty programme members more than any old joe. But that wasn't legal action it was pissed off elite customers. i am sure i remember something else about the Safari or iOS thing. I'll see if i can find it. it was a good few years ago.
yorkshire_lad2 on 18 Sep 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Flight prices are something of a dark art, cookies or no cookies.

A couple of months ago, I was looking for a flight to a US city (let's call it Warholsville) later in the year; it's a regular trip to visit a friend for cycling. I usually fly from Manchester, and expect to pay around 600 quid max. I started looking around July. Shockingly this year, the various usual culprit websites were quoting 900 quid ex Manchester. No cigar on that one. On the spur of the moment, I checked Glasgow (only about an hour further by car in the other direction). Same airline (UA), same gateway city in US (EWR), same timings (Glasgow about 30 mins different from Manchester timings). Answer: 400 quid. Slightly gobsmacked. Checked a few other website to make sure it was bona fide, and didn't hesitate further to book: (very) happy with the deal.
Started daily monitoring thereafter (more out of curiosity, but anorak spreadsheet tendencies don't help!). Flight prices stayed stable, then some very weird price moves early August, then both MAN & GLA stabilised (thus far) at expected 600 quid.
I can only deduce that there was an anomaly in the pricing that someone uncovered and amended, or there was a special offer on somewhere that I didn't see but got to enjoy (I booked via expedia for the Nectar points at same price as going direct - surprisingly).
For the price difference, I could get a gold-plated taxi (I won't, I'll drive); even better, the parking and the Travelodge at Glasgow are significanty cheaper than Manchester

The pricing history graph is at: https://photos.app.goo.gl/1V1WxgaI2tujSxa13

Apart from silly season around second week in August when prices gyrated until settling down again, the prices have been stable, and I've been checking prices daily using a deep link via Google flight price tracking in same browser which goes direct to airline's own website, so there'd have been plenty of chance to track me, but it seems to have no effect...

I'd say to play them at their own game, be advised, & caveat emptor
John Stainforth - on 18 Sep 2017
In reply to Toerag:

Of course it is!

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