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A New Technology Will Soon Let Airlines Charge Different Fares For Different People

Erin Donnelly

If you're the sort of traveler who swears by intense comparison shopping, price alerts, and only purchasing flights at midnight during a full moon cycle, consider this a warning: Airlines have found yet another way to keep you on your toes when it comes to getting the best value for your ticket.

As Travel + Leisure reports, the future of air travel could soon see the widespread introduction of "dynamic pricing," which would mean that different passengers pay different fares — and not just for the usual upgrades like extra legroom or business class seating.

Demand-based dynamic, or surge, pricing isn't necessarily new. It's why airlines hike up the cost of flights during major holidays and peak travel times, and why Uber users pay twice as much for a ride during rush hour. But now airlines — some of which, according to Travel Weekly, have already implemented this system — are setting fares according to a passenger's personal flight history.

Say the person in 31D is a frequent flyer who enjoys cashing in miles for the occasional free flight. Over in 44F might be a new customer traveling for fun; he or she might have more flexibility in terms of travel dates and even destinations, and can thus spend more time on comparison shopping. And in 22A is a businessperson whose flight will be covered by a corporate card, with an upgrade or two possibly thrown in. For them, it's about getting from point A to point B efficiently, whatever the cost.

An airline just needs the passenger's IP address to be privy to all this information. Dynamic pricing software sets fare pricing according to an individual's search history, from which they create a personalized flight profile. That profile dictates what a passenger would pay, with loyalty program members and those traveling for leisure rather than business potentially enjoying lower fares. Thus, the person in 22A might pay more than those in 31D or 44F, and nobody's the wiser.

The purpose of dynamic pricing is, predictably, to boost revenue for airlines. Unfortunately, budget-minded travelers who rely on tried-and-true cost-saving hacks might get lost in the process.

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