Most Travelers Are Confused by Airlines' Dynamic Pricing

by Barbara Peterson
Most Travelers Are Confused by Airlines' Dynamic Pricing

Few consumers are even aware that the airlines are engaging in dynamic (or customized) pricing. Photo: Chris Parypa Photography / Shutterstock.com.


A recent survey of 1,500 travelers by Airfarewatchdog.com reveals that few consumers are even aware that the airlines are engaging in dynamic (or customized) pricing, which uses identifying information like an IP address or browser history to calculate exactly how much a consumer is willing to pay.  

“Many airlines are starting to implement dynamic pricing, and most travelers are clueless about what it is,” the survey’s authors said in an accompanying post. Over 80 percent of those polled didn’t know what dynamic pricing was; and of the 20 percent who did, just 48 percent actually took steps to steps prevent it.

For travel agents, this could open another opportunity to showcase the benefits of using an agent, as dynamic pricing makes it even more difficult than it already is to get an unbiased price comparison. Plus, many consumers would be unsettled by the idea that their personal details might be used to upsell them on an airfare purchase without their knowledge. And while tech-savvy travelers can attempt to get around dynamic pricing by clearing their history or hiding their device type, others would be turned off by having to resort to such strategies.

The same survey, however, revealed that more travelers now understand what is included in Basic Economy fares, which was not the case when this concept took off more than a year ago.  Fully three-quarters of respondents said they understood the restrictions in these bare-bones fares, which typically do not include checked bags, advance seat assignments, or in some cases, even a normal-sized carry-on item. 

In other results, the survey showed that Southwest Airlines’ popularity with passengers has not suffered noticeably despite its recent woes. The carrier took top honors as the best domestic airline, followed by Delta and American. 

“The airline [Southwest] regularly tops consumer rankings and its flyers are definitely a loyal bunch. It’s unlikely they’ll be deterred by this one incident,” said Tracy Stewart, senior editor of Airfarewatchdog, referring to the engine explosion in April that resulted in Southwest’s first accident-related fatality.

The report also pointed out that with Basic Economy and checked bag fees now the norm across the industry, Southwest Airlines stands out even more, with no-fee ticket changes and allowing free checked bags.

In other results, Delta scored highest as “most comfortable airline,” followed by JetBlue and Southwest; Southwest got the nod for best frequent flier program, with Delta and American in second and third places, respectively.

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