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Could dynamic pricing be influencing how much you pay for your plane ticket?

Sophia Bobrowsky  Feb 10th, 2021

Have you ever used the incognito browser or a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to find a cheaper flight option with an airline? Russel Pedley did not understand this trick when he went to the United Airlines mobile app and website and found 2 different prices for the same exact flight option. Customers booking with airlines will increasingly find the industry to be more price-competitive as airlines continue to use sophisticated technology and data to target certain populations and search results for discounts or price gorging. Dynamic pricing allows retailers to distinguish between customers and price differences based on demographics, geographical location, income, and spending habits, and more. In Pedley’s case, his searches on his laptop were different than his searches on his phone causing the flight to be priced 110$ more on his mobile phone. United Airlines spokesman Jonathan Guerin states if you are looking at the United app versus the United.com the rates will always be consistent. The technology and data capabilities of retailers will continue to grow and they become more improved and targeted. Many including Aditi Mehta a solution strategy director at PRO’s, a company developing dynamic pricing, says airlines can incorporate real-time market conditions, competitive perspectives, and customer attributes through the use of dynamic pricing. Yet, many customers argue against dynamic pricing in personalized airline ticket pricing it is unethical and creates inconsistencies with different fares for different people based on their location and income level. They do not see the benefits of dynamic pricing. Two options customers utilize are the browser’s “incognito” mode to turn off cookies and preferences. Another option is a VPN to change the IP address to a different geographical location. However, should customers truly rely on tricks to sidestep dynamic pricing? My answer is no, companies such as United Airlines need to be held accountable for their dynamic pricing as it discriminates and separates customers based on recent search history and location. 


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