a passport and boarding pass

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.

an airplane seats with a tv and a monitorDynamic 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.

a building with colorful domes and a bridge over waterData 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

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Call me cynical but one outcome might be a one way system; high fares when they can sell them and when consumers score a great fare the airline will later claim it was a mistake fare.

  2. Another cynic here. Airlines can barely keep track of their own airplanes let alone fly them on time. They have too many moving pieces to figure it out.

  3. This rhetorical vaporwear is dead on arrival. It’s probably an initiative created by overpaid ivory tower types in order to justify their salaries, but the initiative itself changes nothing. It’s rhetoric meant to make one-time flyers feel like they’re receiving “personalized” service. Give me a break. Unless airlines are going to break the law and collude on ticket pricing for each individual, then airline specific personalized pricing is meaningless because non-frequent flyers purchase the cheapest fare available point-to-point. They will be purchasing a fare not because it’s a personalized price, but because it’s the cheapest price after checking all available carriers in the market. So when the result is the same, what’s really the difference between “personalized pricing” and how non-frequent flyers buy airfare today? Nothing. Travelers buy the cheapest ticket to suit their curcumstances.

  4. TIL airlines are trying to reinvent market economics. Markets work precisely because price is not personalized. What They’re trying to do sounds like communism.

  5. This is (nearly) already here. Go search on a particular route and date and watch the price jump, then slide back as your perceived interest fades. Sometimes you cannot get back to the price you saw whilst other times you can better it. Usually though it lands back right where you were.

    Extrapolate this a bit to include instant historic personal data with personal predictive traits (such as you usually review the same fare 10 times before purchasing) and you are near to that holy grail.

  6. This could be really good for some people, but I don’t trust that the airlines will use this technology solely for good intentions.  Always remember that you can use incognito mode when searching for airfares and hotel room rates to compare.  You can always add your loyalty number AFTER you book your reservation!

  7. Delta already does this all the time. I have tested that theory myself. Look at a booking route two times. Come back later in the day and check the price.

  8. Kayak and Hertz already are starting this. IMV Ryanair is near to this.

    – Have you never seen the difference in pricing offered to you already, depending on whether you’re using your IPAD or a notebook?
    – Have you never seen prices vary wildly for the exact same seat depending on your IP address?
    – Have you no idea what Google is doing?

    TBH I’m a little disappointed with some of the above comments. GSTP is more than right here.

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