Soon, all your years of rambling about how “they’re watching us” will prove true. Soon, based on your purchase, travel and customer history – you will get a different price on your airline ticket than perhaps anyone else, even if you book at the exact same time. Elaborate new airline sales systems are rolling out – and they’re geared to out think us. According to all airlines, they’re designed to delight us, but we’re highly skeptical.

Dynamic Pricing

Dynamic means a process or system characterized by constant change, activity, or progress.  Presently, if two people simultaneously search for identical plane tickets, they’ll likely see the same price. But in this system of the near future, more pricing variables will be at play. Airlines want to sell a ticket to everyone single person that searches. By identifying the unique elements of each shopper, and targeting deals specifically to this person, an airline stands a better chance of completing a sale. In fact, although it’s still in its infancy, many airlines around the world are already using some form of dynamic pricing during the purchase, post purchase process.

Personalized Offers

Airlines want to use your travel and purchase history to personalize the booking process. This can be used for good things, such as discounted upgrade offers for those who fly frequently, or a discount on checked bags because they see you usually bring one. Perhaps, even a special discount for being a great customer. But there’s also potential for a much darker side, which is how many envision this new system being used. PROS, the company developing this software, is already working with over 80 airlines. Dynamic could mean airlines changing fares second by second based on who’s booking. A price here one minute for you, could be gone the next minute for me – or never available at all. And you’ll never “really” know what the best price ever was.

Data Mining

There are already companies which believe they can track users across multiple devices, without someone being logged in. And if you are logged in, like someone with a frequent flyer account or booking site profile – you’re even easier to track. Airlines will be able to pump unique flight offers based on search history. For example: if you usually fly to leisure destinations on weekends, and run a search for a short mid week trip to a business hub, the search may target results towards business friendly purchase options, like flexible tickets. You may not be offered the lowest price.

Potential Benefits

There are potential benefits here. The processes required for an airline to change their prices are currently very complex. But using a dynamic system, an airline could identify a single flight it would really like to push, and offer super “flash” sales for a limited time and pull them quickly. This could mean a glorious continuation of the exciting offers which often last three hours or less. Business class around the world for $1000? Why not – if it’s only just around for an hour.

How do you feel about these new dynamic pricing systems?

HT: TravelWeekly