For the past few weeks, I've been plugging in different sets of dates - departing early to mid-June and returning early to mid-July - on United from Washington, DC to Shannon to see what fares are offered. My other parameters are an early evening departure and less than a three-hour layover in Newark. I've not yet purchased my ticket, as I don't yet know the availability of my travel companion. In the meantime, I continue to look around.
A few seconds after selecting the dates, each day on the calendars is populated with a range of round trip basic economy fares. I then choose the lowest fare - which has frequently (but not always) ranged from the mid-$500s to the upper $600s - and am taken to the next page to select the return fare. More often than not, that lowest departure fare (or even one close to it) has disappeared, and the fares displayed are now several hundred dollars higher than initially shown. Same for the return fares. Sometimes too that lowest fare now includes a seven- to ten-hour layover in Newark. To be fair, about a fourth of the time though the fare on both ends has remained the same and within my layover time parameter.
I'm thinking that with this ongoing and erratic roller coaster display of various fares, United's algorithms are playing games and even recognize return visits/visitors in order to effect a quick purchase. I've never seen anything like it before, including on other arilines' websites. And, again, it's been occurring over a span of many weeks.
Has anyone experienced this or something similar? Other than the alogrighms, what other explanation can there be?