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Do flight prices go up the more you search?

This is a common question for travelers looking to get the best deal on airfare. With the rise of travel search engines and meta-search sites like Kayak, Expedia, and Google Flights, it’s easier than ever for consumers to compare prices across airlines and routes. However, some suspect that the more they search for flights, the more the prices go up. Is this suspicion valid or just a myth?

The Theory Behind Dynamic Pricing

The concern that flight prices increase with more searches is related to the airline industry practice called “dynamic pricing.” This means airlines use algorithmic software to frequently adjust fares based on supply and demand. Prices can change multiple times per day based on factors like:

  • Number of seats still available on the flight
  • Days remaining until departure
  • Seasonality and holidays
  • Competitor pricing
  • Overall travel demand

In essence, when demand is high and seats are limited, prices go up. When demand is low, airlines lower prices to attract customers. This allows them to maximize revenue potential for each flight.

Do Search Habits Impact Pricing?

Intuitively, some travelers believe their individual search patterns could trigger price increases if an airline thinks they’re interested in a particular flight. However, most industry experts agree this is highly unlikely in the vast majority of normal consumer flight search scenarios.

There are a few key reasons why airlines don’t adjust pricing based on individual interest:

Difficulty Tracking Individual User Activity

While airlines do pay attention to broader search trends to forecast demand, they have no way to connect specific travel searches to individual user profiles across all the various sites people use. Unless logging in while searching directly on an airline site, users appear anonymized.

Minimal Impact of a Single Traveler

In the enormous global air travel market, a single consumer has little impact on overall demand. Airlines analyze booking patterns in aggregate, not at the individual level. One person’s interest in a particular flight is extremely unlikely to measurably shift the pricing algorithms.

Antitrust Concerns

If airlines collaborated to adjust prices based on individual interest, it would violate antitrust laws on price collusion. The airline industry is already under close watch by consumer protection regulators. Intentionally hiking prices on specific users would open airlines up to major legal risks and public backlash.

So in most typical travel search scenarios, you can be confident your personal search behavior isn’t affecting the prices you see. However, there are some important caveats and exceptions.

When Your Search History Might Matter

While you’re highly unlikely to affect prices during a typical search, industry experts note some nuanced cases where your personal search history could potentially trigger price changes:

Searching while logged in to an airline site

If you search for flights while logged in to an airline’s website or mobile app, they can connect your search history directly to your user profile. This gives them the capability to personalize pricing based on your interest, though whether they actually do so is unclear.

Extremely high demand routes

For flights that see off-the-charts demand like New Year’s Eve flights or major events, each individual booking could have a more noticeable supply/demand impact. Airlines may utilize more strategic dynamic pricing on these special high-demand routes.

User profiles on meta search sites

If you store your personal information and search history on travel meta-search sites like Kayak or Expedia, in theory they could analyze individual patterns to give targeted price estimates. However, there is no public evidence they actually do so.

Third-party cookies tracking you across sites

Advertising technology allows companies to build user profiles based on web browsing behavior tracked across multiple sites via third-party cookies. Airlines could theoretically access these profiles to personalize pricing. Again, there’s no proof this occurs. Most browsers now block third-party cookies by default.

Clearing Cookies Could Reset Prices

One technique travelers sometimes use when they suspect personalized price inflation is to clear their cookies and browser history. This erases any trace of your search patterns and essentially makes you anonymous again to the airline and booking sites.

Some travelers claim clearing cookies has helped them secure better deals, particularly when searching for the same flight over a longer period. It may force the search engines to revert to a baseline price rather than showing you higher personalized estimates.

However, clearing cookies is not a guaranteed fix. Many other factors beyond your personal search history go into the dynamically adjusted prices. But because it’s simple to do, it’s worth trying if you want to test whether it has any positive impact.

Tips to Minimize the Impact of Dynamic Pricing

While your individual search behavior is unlikely to drive price changes, broader industry dynamic pricing algorithms do cause prices to fluctuate frequently based on overall demand. Here are some tips to minimize the impact:

Use private/incognito browsing

Search for flights in an incognito or private browser window that doesn’t save your search history or cookies. This prevents linking your interest to your profile.

Split searches across devices

Use different devices like your phone, tablet, laptop when searching over time to avoid linking search patterns to any single profile.

Check prices in aggregators and airline sites

Compare prices you see both on flight aggregator sites and directly on airline sites for the most complete information.

Clear cookies and browser history periodically

As mentioned previously, clearing your cookies and browsing history may help reset to a baseline price if you feel prices are increasing on your searches over time.

Consider using a VPN

Masking your IP address via a VPN makes it harder for sites to link searches to your profile and location. This adds another layer of anonymity.

Be flexible with dates/times/airports

More flexibility increases your chance of finding deals unaffected by other search patterns. Consider searching wider date ranges, alternate departure times, and even nearby airports.

Book early when possible

Booking further ahead reduces the impact of short-term dynamic fluctuations closer to departure dates.

The Bottom Line

While the prices you see online are definitely personalized to some degree based on factors like your browsing history, location, and travel dates, your own individual search patterns are highly unlikely to affect pricing in most typical travel booking scenarios. Airlines and search engines have minimal incentive to show customers different prices based on individual interest. However, if you do suspect personalized price inflation during your flight searches, tactics like clearing cookies, using private browsing, varying search devices, and comparing aggregators can help discover the best available deal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do prices go up as my travel dates get closer?

In general, yes – flight prices tend to rise as the departure date approaches. This is because there are fewer seats still available, so demand is higher relative to supply. Airlines increase prices to maximize revenue.

When is the best time to book a flight?

Most experts recommend booking domestic U.S. flights 1-3 months in advance and international flights 4-6 months out for the best deals. However, there are always exceptions and it depends on the route. Flexible travel dates also help secure lower fares.

Should I book my flight on a weekend or weekday?

There is no consistent evidence that booking on specific days of the week results in lower fares. Airlines adjust pricing algorithms constantly without regard to weekends vs. weekdays. Just search for deals frequently and pounce when you find one.

How far in advance should I search for flights?

It’s generally recommended to search for flights about 4-8 weeks in advance for domestic U.S. travel and 2-4 months in advance for international flights. But there are always exceptions based on travel dates, seasons, and demand factors.

Do flight prices go down after I book?

It’s very common for flight prices to decrease after you book. But they can also increase. There is no way to time flight booking perfectly to always pay the lowest price. Focus on getting a good deal compared to average prices for your route and travel dates. Many airlines and travel sites also offer price drop guarantees and alerts.


Dynamic pricing algorithms mean flight ticket prices are constantly changing online based on overall supply and demand trends. However, in most typical travel search scenarios, your personal search patterns and individual interest are highly unlikely to directly impact the prices you see. Airlines and meta search sites have minimal capability or incentive to alter prices solely based on an individual consumer’s search behavior, except perhaps in very rare high-demand situations. While factors beyond your control do cause prices to vary, travelers can use strategies like private browsing and clearing cookies to minimize potential impacts of dynamic pricing on the deals they find.