Please sign in to post.

Air fares changing in a matter of minutes?

Is it possible that air fares can change in a matter of, say, 20 minutes?

I was just doing a "dummy flight booking" and noticed that the price of a one-way ticket jumped $57. Is this even possible, or am I burning out in the process of my research and imagining things?

Thank you!

Posted by
8960 posts

Yes airfares can change that fast. If you are checking prices for a discount airline, be aware that the price automatically increases as tickets are sold. The flag carriers also tinker with prices throughout the day.

Some may tell you to clear the cookies in your browser, but it's an urban legend.

Posted by
8674 posts

Actually, I have cleared my cookies and gotten different prices with Delta. I had checked a fare further out than I usually book and it was very high...like $3,000. I went back in again using my FF# and checked again several months later and got the same fare (I had written it down). I cleared my cookies and immediately got a fare in the range I expected, so around $1300.

Posted by
491 posts

All I can say is Yikes! And thanks for reassuring me that I'm not losing my sanity.

I was working with Icelandair, which I know is a budget airline.

Posted by
2037 posts

Uh no, clearing cookies is NOT an urban legend. It's a game sites play to get more money out of you once you've decided to do the deed. I have experienced this firsthand, my own self. BTW, airline computers are massive and are constantly recalculating, millions of times a second. Now hotels are doing the same thing.

Car dealers do the same if you try to take their "last best offer" to another dealership and then come back. That's how sales works.

Posted by
351 posts

I recently had a new one on Delta when in the midst of booking they increased the rate by well over $100. It was an odd situation where I was booking for 4 of us as two and two because 2 of us were returning earlier than the other two, so I had two windows open, and all my rates and was just paying. Once I booked the first two and tried to pay for the second two, the rate went WAY up. I went to "in private browsing" and was able to book the original rate.

The airlines definitely have all the computers and expertise at hand to maximize their revenue.

Posted by
491 posts

I'm feeling very apprehensive about booking. There are lots of negative reviews about every airline out there. I'm afraid of making am expensive mistake.

Posted by
8960 posts

Uh no, clearing cookies is NOT an urban legend.

Both Consumer Reports and National Geographic Traveler have investigated this, and side with the airlines: fare fluctuations are the result of load management software tinkering with fares, not individual cookies installed on customer's computers.

Posted by
1821 posts

I never clear my cookies and often find that airfares go down. This myth does however provide lots of Internet fun. However some of you may want to look at history. I used to have a version of ie that actually just pulled up the same page vs doing a new search. Big pain (I now use another browser)

But I have also had tickets go up while booking. If the other people booking are faster then you the cheapest fare may sell out

Posted by
8960 posts

I never clear my cookies and often find that airfares go down.

Same experience. Earlier this year I was watching fares for an open jaw ticket Nice/Amsterdam. In conjunction with the person I was traveling with we gave ourselves a deadline for when we would purchase tickets if they didn't go down (about 60 days before departure). The morning of the deadline the fare didn't budge, called my travel partner to confirm it was okay to purchase the tickets, five minutes later when I returned to the airline's site the fare went down $300. Didn't clear any cookies, go into private browsing, change browsers, or conceal my identity in any way.

Posted by
6778 posts

There are lots of negative reviews about every airline out there. I'm afraid of making am expensive mistake.

I would stop reading negative reviews (or any reviews for that matter) and focus strictly on getting the best value for your money...that is all you can possibly do. Most airline trips are totally uneventful, only the eventful ones get any coverage whatsoever. Besides, being on an airplane is a very quick, temporary experience - even if it's bad, it's over soon enough.

Posted by
491 posts

Thanks, Agnes! You are right. This is doing nothing positive for me at all.

Posted by
11613 posts

I buy tickets well in advance, once I find a price I can live with, and I never look back after that.

Posted by
8674 posts

I'm feeling very apprehensive about booking. There are lots of negative reviews about every airline out there. I'm afraid of making am expensive mistake.

If you are concerned, then you might look at your options with the legacy airlines rather than the budget airlines. There are, of course, negative reviews of the big companies too but spending a bit more for a better route (fewer stops) might be an advantage. (Sorry, I can't remember where you are going...UK??)

I also agree with Zoe. Once you book, do NOT continue to look at prices.

Posted by
491 posts

Yes, I am going to the UK.
By legacy airline I am guessing you mean, say, British Airways or Virgin Atlantic--established airlines that have been around a while?

Posted by
3477 posts

Yes, they waited until you bought your tickets to lower the price! I hate it when they do that to me! ;-)

IF this was a US based airline (or a foreign airline selling from a US based location) you do have 24 hours from time of purchase to cancel and receive a full complete refund with no fees taken out. (Unless it was American Airlines and they have their own, frustratingly different, rules). So you could have cancelled and repurchased the tickets to get the lower price.

Posted by
1217 posts
  1. A given airline can have 10+ different economy 'fare buckets' on the same plane at varying prices and once a cheap fare bucket is sold out, the booking software will offer the next cheapest bucket. So if someone books the same flight a few minutes before you do, they could get the last tickets for sale in that fare bucket. IIRC, the software tries to put everyone in the same fare bucket, so sometimes breaking up a party of 4 into 2 and 2 can help you find the last two available tickets in a cheaper fare bucket instead of trying to put all 4 passengers into a more expensive fare bucket that has space for all of them.

  2. As for downward movement, sometimes you just get lucky- the sales for that flight aren't where they should be so the system triggers a slight discount or another airline just dropped their prices on a route and your preferred airline has their software set up to automatically match that new price.

Posted by
544 posts

A couple of heads up about IcelandAir:
They use 757s instead of larger two-aisle planes, so it can feel more cramped when getting up for the restroom.

When you change planes at Keflavik it can be busy, especially on the trip home in the ground-level departure area. The employees don't do many announcements in the airport and aren't very talkative, so if you have a question or need help, just be assertive and ask.

If your flight is delayed call IcelandAir directly. The ground crews at airports outside of Iceland don't have any ability to make things happen for passengers like the people on the phones will.

Posted by
491 posts

Thanks for the info!

I have another question. The flight I was looking at has gone up by about $30. In the next several months, will more flights be scheduled at various prices? In other words, should I jump on this fare? Or will something cheaper possibly come along?

Boy, I miss the old days, when I would call Virgin Atlantic, the RT fare was $500 and that was that.

Posted by
11275 posts

"In the next several months, will more flights be scheduled at various prices? In other words, should I jump on this fare? Or will something cheaper possibly come along?"

It is unlikely that there will actually be more flights on a particular route. Of course, it does happen, and then there is often a sale. This is particularly true when a carrier enters a market. For instance, not too long ago Emirates starting flying New York to Milan (a completely new route for them); this led to flights to Milan being very cheap (on all airlines) compared with flights to other Italian cities.

As for something cheaper coming along without more flights being added, as everyone said above, you never know. The rule is, when you find a fare you consider acceptable, book it IMMEDIATELY before it disappears, and then don't look back.

Posted by
3192 posts

A $30 increase is very little in the big picture of a trip cost. It's not even much in the flight cost. I agree with those who say jump on it, if it's a fare you can live with. The "don't look back" advice is generally sound; however, I once did look back. We had had our tickets for months when, a few weeks before departure, I got an e-mail from the airline announcing a sale. I decided to check; and there, before my eyes, were fares for our flights, $375/pp lower than what I had paid. Even with the $250 fee for changing, we came out with $125 credits toward our next trip. Note these had a 1 year expiration date; but we go to Europe every year, so no problem.

I can't remember any earth-shaking event that would have caused the airlines (others were also cutting prices) to engage in a price war. However, it's only happened to us once in 30 years of travel. I think it might happen if there were a really big terrorism attack, or if the economy tanked in a sudden and major way. Those sorts of events are unpredictable. It's just as likely that prices will go up in the future.

Posted by
2037 posts

Really, you're worried about a $30 or $50 increase in fare? For a flight to Europe? That's peanuts compared to what you're spending in total. Pay it, don't sweat it, enjoy your trip.

OTOH, if you can't afford a swing like that, you probably can't afford a trip like that. Just a thought.

I think Expedia gives you 24 hours after booking to change your mind.

Posted by
491 posts

The price change is OK. I'm very much a worry wart!