As the holiday season, long weekends, and summer break approach, you may have noticed the exorbitant rise in airfare prices. While customers strive to find the lowest prices, airlines are equally determined to fill every seat and maximize their revenue. But why do airfares differ so much, even for adjacent seats in the same class on the same flight? And why is it that when you check ticket prices online, they increase within a day or even moments?
You would expect airfares to be consistently priced everywhere, right? Well, that assumption is incorrect.
Behind the scenes, a deliberate and intricate system is at play. Numerous factors contribute to the significant variation in ticket prices, even for seats in close proximity. Fasten your seatbelt as we delve into the reasons.
Big data serves a crucial role in airfare pricing. While algorithms and machine learning algorithms have become increasingly influential, human decisions also play a significant part. By analyzing past patterns and trends, algorithms predict the likelihood of those patterns repeating in the future.
However, how do airlines determine the location or country from which you’re booking? One way is by identifying your IP address, while mobile tracking, Wi-Fi connection, and browser data also come into play.
Your online activities, collectively known as “big data,” have become a valuable currency. For instance, booking platform Hopper claims to train its airfare predictive tool on an extensive database of 75 trillion itineraries and eight years of historical price data. This data includes cookies, customer geolocation, device type, and browsing behavior.
So, why do you sometimes end up paying more for your seat than your neighbor on the same flight? This can be attributed to the “fare bucket” system employed by airlines. Seats are grouped and sold at a specific price, and once sold out, another “bucket” opens up at a different price point. Consequently, the passenger in seat 22C might have paid considerably more for their trip than the passenger in seat 22D.
This is where algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) come into play. Automated systems allow airlines to respond promptly to price changes initiated by competitors. However, accurately predicting fares is challenging due to the unpredictability of other systems and airlines’ responses. Data scientists admit that achieving a high level of accuracy in fare prediction is not always easy.
Nonetheless, historical data serves as a reliable basis for price-prediction algorithms. This is why your browsing and search history are highly valued by aviation data analysts. A study published in the Journal of King Saud University – Computer and Information Sciences suggested considering external factors such as social media data and search engine queries for ticket and demand prediction, adding an additional layer of complexity to the process.
Have you ever wondered why airlines sometimes reduce prices at the last minute? It’s a constant cat-and-mouse game. Although it’s challenging to predict an airline’s exact reasoning and the variables affecting current prices, historical price data can be tracked, enabling future predictions.
Google Flights, known for helping customers find the most affordable tickets, had to limit its “predictive insights” due to the increased volatility of airfares since the spring of 2020. The platform aims for 90% prediction accuracy but faces difficulties during the pandemic. As the industry stabilizes, Google Flights intends to revive the project.
Now, let’s explore some helpful tips for securing cheap airfares:
- Use “incognito browsing” or clear cookies and browsing history to avoid algorithm-based price increases.
- Utilize flight comparison sites like Google Flights, Kayak, and Expedia to find the best deals and compare prices across different airlines.
- Plan ahead and book in advance. Planning at least six months ahead or finding the “sweet spot” of 4 to 6 weeks before your travel date can result in better deals.
- Stay flexible with your travel dates and consider off-peak days or times for cheaper fares.
- Explore nearby airports and consider connecting flights, as they may offer more affordable options.
- Sign up for price alerts and follow airlines on social media to stay informed about special offers and discounts.
- Consider budget airlines for short distances, as they often provide lower-cost options.
- Take advantage of frequent flyer programs and rewards to accumulate miles or points for future discounted or free flights.
- Be patient, keep an eye out for seat sales, and act swiftly when you find a good deal to avoid missing out.
By implementing these strategies and staying informed, you can increase your chances of securing affordable airfares. So buckle up, embrace the adventure, and enjoy your budget-friendly travels.