Twenty years ago finding a good airfare was difficult and you had to rely on a high street or telesales travel agent to find you a good deal. Another deal was to read through the papers and go through thousands of adds to find a good deal. Then the likes of Expedia, Priceline and many other online travel search comparison sites started offering a way for you to search for airline pricing, and for a while you could find cheaper ways to travel and compare fares and times between airlines. Now go to 2018 and most local travel agencies have had to close down and almost everyone is booking flights online. But do we get a good deal here. Here is my argument that we are being played by the airlines and the online booking engines.

The Cost Of Extras

The cost of extras is the thing that is never revealed when you do the initial search both on individual airline booking sites or the airfare booking engines. This is because all that the booking engines at the moment can show you is the price of a flight, on a given date, for a given class (economy, premium economy, business and first class) and for which airline, and that is if you get to fly on that airline and not on some other airline through code sharing agreement. The cheapest price always comes on top. Now here is where the games are being played and that is the cost of extras.

Lets give a hypothetical example on a flight from London to New York which is cheapest with Norwegian on the search engine Momondo. Momondo will show you a few different options where you can book your flights and these are OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) or the airline websites, and that is only when they can get a commission from the airline otherwise it will not show up. Each OTA and airline website has its own set of rules when it comes to extras even if you fly with the same airline. The extras are the cost of checked in luggage, priority boarding, seat allocation, meals, admin costs, credit and debit card fees, and extra hand luggage allowance. So we get different results for exactly the same flight and often the cheapest one quoted initially is not the cheapest when it comes to extras and final payment. Besides that for each OTA and airline website you have to wade through pages of extras like insurance, which always seems to have a tick in the box, car rentals, hotel suggestions and even tours.

It gets even more complicated when you want to compare the pricing between multiple airlines as the cheapest initially might not be the cheapest for your situation. Each airline has also different rules when it comes to luggage allowance. First there is the cabin allowance, there are rules regarding size and weight and how many bags you can bring. Sometimes airlines give you the option of bringing two bags in the cabin. Then there is the checked in bag policy. Low cost carriers started charging to check in your bag and now even some premium airlines, especially on the short haul flights, start doing so due to competition and ranking high on the initial cheap price. Checked in bag policies differ on the weight and how many bags you want to check in.

In all of this how can you possibly find the cheapest flights. I wish there was a price comparison site which included the capability of searching on extras and include them in the overall price. So know ahead how you will travel and what size of bags you have and approximately how much they will weigh and take this into account. If you fly at night you my do without meals, if you fly during the day you may need them.

Air Asia sign

My carry on bag weighs more than that. Should I pay to check in or pay a fine at the airport?

Clear Your Cookies

Some OTAs and airline websites have been reported to use cookies of our previous searches to show you higher prices when you come back. In fact the type of computer that you are using can even affect what fares and options booking engines show you; Orbitz CEO Barney Harford admitted this a few years back in an article with the Wall Street Journal the site began recommending different (usually pricier) hotels to Mac users than to PC users.

Sites will always say that pricing changes happen due to demand and the Airline pricing engines that work in the background to optimise the airline profits. But it will be of no harm clearing your cookies or alternatively use incognito browsing to search again.

IP Address & GPS Location

So cookies or even the computer type can give away your affluence but there are plenty of other ways price can be different based upon location. These are the other ways that websites can determine your location.

  • IP Address – An Internet Protocol (IP) address is your unique address on the internet – It allows websites to find your location.
  • GPS on handheld devices – Websites can use your mobile’s or tablet’s GPS to see where you are located, and then use that to determine which pricing to offer you.
  • Wi-Fi – even if you’re browsing through Wi-Fi, websites can track your location if you give them permission. You get this anyoing notifications in your browser make sure to block them.
  • Geo-location coding on websites: With HTML5 coding, websites can track your location even on your personal computer.

In short the OTAs and Airline websites use the point-of-sale, chosen payment currency and location to determine the price quote you are given for your tickets. So someone in a different country using a different currency can pay more or less for exactly the same flight. The way around this is using a VPN service which will allow you to have an IP address in a low cost country. For long haul flights the savings can be substantial. This article from safervpn has more details on how using a VPN service might help you safe substantial money.

Conclusion

Airlines and online travel agencies face fierce competition and are using clever algorithms to get you to pay top dollar for your flight. Now that you know some of the tricks being used arm yourself with a VPN and be prepared to not always check the lowest shown price, do some of your own comparisons of the final price. Substantial savings can be made. We at Smart Gear are coming up with a flexible bag solution which will allow you to save on airline baggage fees and take at least some stress away of travel which should be fun. Be sure to subscribe to our Kickstarter campaign which will launch later in 2018.