The Traveller's Magazine icon
The Traveller's Magazine
  •   2 min read

Why do flight prices differ from one minute to the next on the web? How do we avoid paying more than we have to? A recent article in ” Le Monde”, originally published in French, caught our eye so we’ve summarised the main tips here for you, in English!

This has no doubt happened to you once or twice before: the flights you’ve been eyeing have suddenly jumped up to £120 when they were only £100 fifteen minutes ago. Bad luck! Except that luck has nothing to do with it. Let us explain…

Yield Management

What does it mean? Simply that a set number of seats are allocated a particular price and the seat prices go up as the plane reaches capacity. It’s a tactic that has been used for ages by low cost airlines. Remember seeing little notices on Ryanair and EasyJet saying “£20 (Hurry! Only 4 seats left at this price).” That’s Yield Management. Best advice? Book your flights as soon as possible. Don’t wait if you see that there are only a few seats available for the lower price. This rings especially true on popular routes and popular dates (weekends, hols and half-term breaks).

Remember: is totally independent from the airlines it indexes. It’s quite common to find differences between the prices shown on and that of the suppliers for the exact reason we’ve explained here.

If your flight to Rome has gone up £10 or £20 in a matter of minutes, it’s probably because a few others have made their flight selections and completed their bookings while you’ve been trying to decide whether or not to go. This is the game of flying low cost (but more and more with regular airlines as well).

Screen Shot 2013-02-04 at 10.19.36

IP Tracking

The other tactic airlines and travel agencies use to get higher prices is tracking your computer’s IP address. Yes, the airlines are stocking you… virtually. Each computer and smartphone is tagged with an identification number that is connected to how it accesses the internet. The airline’s website is a smart little thing. It can recognise where you’re located thanks to this IP address.

They have developed algorithms to save your searches and understand that if you make the same search repeatedly in a short period of time that you’re very likely to buy your tickets soon. Cue price jump!

They’ve got you. You panic that the price has risen 5 quid and think you had better buy now in case it goes up any more. It’s a funny little game but that’s how they reel you in to buy.

Tip: once you’ve found the exact date/times of your trip, simply log on to another computer with a different IP address and you should find the lower price you originally found. Unless of course it’s a case of Yield Management. Then you’re out of luck.

For those francophones who want to read the original, find it on Rafaele Rivais’ blog SOS conso.

Imgs: Screenshot + Flickr cc.

Looking for your next trip? Find the best flights with us!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

footer logo
Made with for you