Why you may be paying more airfare than your seatmate

Long Lunch 11/10/2018
Photo: Unsplash.

Online airline fares may fluctuate depending on your Internet activity, says one expert.

Some call it “fare discrimination”, but according to Dr Rob Nicholls, it’s a completely legal price that helps intermediary travel companies rake in more money.

“You might not get the absolute best price that’s available,” Dr Nicholls told RadioLIVE.

The senior lecturer at Sydney’s School of Taxation and Business Law says intermediary travel companies build profiles based on consumer search patterns.

Any breadcrumb you leave will be used by these sites.

If it’s clear a traveller wants a specific flight, the website may bump up the fare before you confirm the itinerary. 

But Dr Nicholls emphasised that most major airlines, including Air New Zealand, do not engage in the practice on their own websites.

Intermediaries, however, will earn much of their commission when bumping their prices above the amount the airline sold it for.

To avoid excess fees, Dr Nicholls recommends setting the Internet browser to private mode or clear the browser history when searching for flights. He also recommends searching initially on one browser (like Chrome), and then switching to another (say, Firefox) to take the final plunge.

“Any breadcrumb you leave will be used by these sites,” he warned. 

Listen to the full interview with Rob Nicholls above.

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.