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January 17, 2016

Does browsing ticket sites in incognito mode and/or from different IPs result in cheaper ticket prices?

Image courtesy of samuiblue at
Holiday season is over but most of us like traveling and are planing for new adventures.
The world’s airlines are set to post a collective record net profit of $33 billion for 2015 and are forecast to post another record net profit of $36.3 billion in 2016, according to IATA.  In order to maximize our hard earned dollars we, the travelers, always try to find the best deal either online or thru travel agents. When purchasing items on the internet (especially airline tickets), use incognito mode on your browser. Here's why: your own cookies* may be used against you: raising the price on tickets the more times you check, as you shop around for better deals. That way you'll think the price is going up or that seats are being actively sold - thus increasing your urgency to buy, and punishing you for trying to get a good deal.
The point is that it's not enough to just shop around to different websites on your own computer anymore. You have to shop around with a clean browser, different browsers, different computers, change of IP, maybe try from work then remotely connect  to your home computer or somebody on the other side of the country, etc. Also, always call the airline directly and check on the price - sometimes it's much cheaper!
You can try it easily. Just open a flight website twice (with a few hours of interval), and ask a friend that never did that to do the same at his place, at the same hour the second time. You can also simulate "a friend" testing with a different browser but you will have the same IP address. Be careful not to open the website too many times. A new effect can happen. If a flight has a lot of interest, specially if you take the reservation process a few steps further, prices can also raise for that (it's the law of the market, the fewer sits, more valuable they are)
Did you try doing the same search in Incognito mode and did it return the previous, lower price? Just because the price went up coincidentally when you were about to book doesn't mean something nefarious is happening; seats on a flight are a limited resource and they do sell out. Also, the price may appear to fluctuate if someone is part way through booking a seat (placing a hold on it and making it unavailable) and then cancels

*Cookie -  also called web cookie, Internet cookie, browser cookie or simply cookie, a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in a user's web browser while the user is browsing that website.

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