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How I “hacked” Kayak and booked a cheaper flight (josecasanova.com)
218 points by xpop2027 on Jan 22, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 119 comments



No. I work for an OTA (not Kayak). First of all airlines file their fare rules and OTAs don't change the prices, and generally airlines pay around $10 to us to book a RT fare so there is little room to discount. Kayak is a meta which means all they do is present prices they are given from their partners (either via a feed or scrape) and then send them to the partner who shares the fee. Southwest (as others have mentioned) is not available in the US as a business choice. Kayak also heavily caches the fares (everyone does to make performance better) and inventory changes a lot especially in close by dates. Seeing cached prices of a cached price means the actual price can change a lot from searching to booking. Note the final price is only determined when you hit a booking page, everything before that is cached and might be fairly stale. Of course they can be errors in pricing since the fare rules are crazy complicated and often the difference in fares might be all the taxing entities. Each country, county, city, airport and cow pasture might affect the final price so it's possible that a country where you are booking might affect this (our customers are mostly in the US) but I doubt it.

tldr - lucky "hacker"


If I open an incognito window and hit it again, why does the price change?


Perhaps because time elapsed between when you searched and when you searched using the Incognito window? Perhaps because you hit a different load balancer with a different cache?

It's quite possible that nothing nefarious is going on.


Also note that airlines can and do choose to show more flight options on their own sites that they deny to any OTA. The actual fares are all by rule and aren't different.


I've had good luck in saving tons of money in the past when using an partner airline to book a flight as a codeshare, rather than the actual flight number.

eg, Find a flight you like on AA? Try and book it on QF or BA and the price might be substantially different, even though you end up sitting on exactly the same plane.


I've suffered with cached prices before.


Like someone else said, it’s because it’s a Southwest flight… Southwest isn't shown on the results of the big airfare search engines (kayak, expedia, orbitz) when searching from the United States because it refuses to pay those websites' fees.

Looks like you’ve found out that they are shown on Canada based version of the Kayak site. Most likely because the fee arrangements are different or because Southwest is willing to pay them, probably to get exposure to markets that wouldn't otherwise know about them because they don't have a marketing presence there.


This is definitely the most likely scenario. Kayak and other aggregating sites have different arrangements with different partners in different regions. In turn those partners have different arrangements either with direct connect or the GDS themselves (who may also have different arrangements depending on the geographic market).

You can get the same effect with other GDS products also, try rental cars for one. The other crazy thing is that different geographic markets are generally responsible for their own revenues, so you can have different promotions, and yield management strategies depending on who is trying to hit their numbers.


Looks like the cheap flights were on WN (Southwest) and the expensive flights were on DL (Delta).

I just did an example flight search to fly later this week (Jan 24-30 round trip) from SLC to OAK, a route that both DL and WN fly direct. Kayak shows me fares from $492 on US and B6 changing planes in Phoenix or Long Beach (doubling distance and quintupling flight time) and direct flights from $532 on DL.

Kayak doesn't show me any WN prices in the USA, but might have some sort of pilot program or contract to show them outside the USA. Iflyswa.com shows direct flights from $526.

Meanwhile ITA Matrix (matrix.itasoftware.com, made with secret alien technology [0]) shows flights on US for $318 which violate the rules for domestic connection times and cannot be booked. It's strange that those flights are shown since Matrix is usually very reliable.

Going directly to US's website reveals fares of $440 for flights with a connection in Phoenix.

So what's the lesson here? Check the WN site directly instead of depending on search sites. Check both ITA Matrix and Kayak if you're depending on search sites; they don't have the same flights listed. Sometimes you need to check individual airline websites even though it's a pain because they have better flights and prices than search sites have; there's no reliable way to know when that's the case.

[0] http://www.lisperati.com/logo.html


The lesson is know what a fair price is for your flight, then check a handful of sites often until it comes up for around that price. Try to book at least a few weeks in advance.

I can't stress the first point enough. When you buy anything, or if you need to negotiate a price, do your research, and know what it should cost. It's especially true when booking flights, because you don't want to see a price, think it might go lower, and miss a great deal. If you know the fair value, you can recognize a good offer when you see it, and book instantly.


> So what's the lesson here? Check the WN site directly instead of depending on search sites.

Kayak and TripAdvisor will give you unpriced WN flights in their search results. You still have to check WN directly for prices, but it's useful for seeing what's available.


Being from Dallas (Southwest HQ) I know that Southwest doesn't allow other websites to use their booking and online flight pricing. Most airlines can be checked through Google Flights or Kayak but I know that I have to check with Southwest directly to compare their prices. BUMP: I guess I should have read the other comments as this has been said a dozen times.


Who is "B6"? Can you just spell out the airline name instead?


B6 is the IATA designator for JetBlue. People who travel heavily, or otherwise spend a lot of time talking about airlines, often use these to refer to airlines rather than writing out the full names over and over.

IATA designators for commonly-discussed US-based airlines:

* AirTrain: FL

* Alaska: AS

* Allegiant: G4

* American: AA

* Delta: DL

* Frontier: F9

* Hawaiian: HA

* JetBlue: B6

* Southwest: WN

* Spirit: NK

* Sun Country: SY

* United: UA

* US Airways: US

* Virgin America: VX


Yeah, definitely appropriate abbreviation for the airplane nuts at Hacker News. It's an interesting TIL, but for future reference, @WildUtah, I'd wager less than 1% of the population knows anything about airline designations.


They're on every boarding pass anyone has ever handled, and there are screens full of them on the Departure/Arrival boards at every airport.

Airline codes aren't that obscure...


I wouldn't say they're common knowledge either. Sure, when ones traveling they may notice their abbreviation, but beyond a glance, it's not of much import to most.


Maybe overseas, but I've never seen IATA airlines codes used on an arrival/departure board in the US. Is the US we just spell out the airline, there are plenty of pixels.


I've been doing this for years. After I noticed most places are cheap to get to but flights are expensive back. I noticed the same business model was in place from the other direction. So just fake the country of origin and you get cheap to and back.

The other one is clear your cookies before booking. Places create fake demand by disappearing the cheap flights on you if you shopping around. If you clear your cookies the cheap flights will return.


So you book two one-way tickets? AFAICT, that's usually not cheaper.


Yeah thats right, quite often to holiday destinations they run specials like flights to Croatia $200, but you try and get a flight back $600. They recoup the costs on the return flight you need to take.

But if you're in Croatia you can get flights to London $200 etc... geofenced deals marketing deals to try and coerce people into taking holidays.


No, he changes his country of origin to C then books a round trip from A to B. It is sometimes cheaper that way.


That actual works as well, don't book anything from South Africa I found out as I was booking my mates flights. You could knock several hundred off by going through an Australian or UK proxy. I believe from memory it was the same agency as well. Just changing the domain brought up vastly different prices on the same flights.

But no as I mentioned above lots of holiday destinations have cheap tickets inbound, but out bound are expensive. I first noticed it travelling from London to Croatia.

It was like $200 flight to Split, but the flight home was double or triple. I hopped on a proxy, and found I could get the reverse deal from Split to London. $200 to London, $600 back home to split. So I started gaming the system.

The agencies are hedging on the fact you have to take the return flight. So they coerce you into the cheap flight to location X, but claw the money back with the return flight which I guess the vast majority of people have to take.


The price descrimination that the airlines do is so opaque and manipulative, this is exactly why one needs to be cognizant of the technicals. We are really only a single logical step removed from a pretty bad place (read: racist/sexist/elitist, etc) with this teqnique to dynamic pricing and (essentially) ... front-running.[1] For example, we can charge black people more (based on zip-code demographics) to discourage them from flying first class. We could, if we wanted to, require PII prior to bidding on tickets. Imagine if the NYSE priced publicly traded equities in this manner? The irony of cutting out the middle man to reduce costs, is that at some stage, we may be paying an intermediary (broker/marketmaker) to anonymize our order flow to get "fair" prices.

[1] This is what it really is, lets be honest.


    For example, we can charge black people more (based on
    zip-code demographics) to discourage them from flying
    first class.
A middleman like Kayak has no incentive to keep black people out of first-class. They do have an incentive to price discriminate: charge people more who would be willing to pay more. Likely outcome: lower fares for economically disadvantaged groups. Except the middlemen are all required to charge the fare the airline sets, and can't compete on price.

The airlines currently price discriminate primarily by separating the relatively price-insensitive business travelers from highly price-sensitive leisure travelers. This is why you'll generally see lower fares for round trips that span a weekend: if you're traveling for work you generally don't want to spend your weekend off away from your family.


No incentive to keep black people out of first-class. They do have an incentive to price discriminate: charge people more who would be willing to pay more. Likely outcome: lower fares for economically disadvantaged groups.

This is insanely naive. Do you really think that rich people don't pay a premium for "exclusivity"? And who, pray tell, do you imagine they are trying to exclude?

[0] http://www.wired.com/design/2013/08/how-segregated-is-your-c...

[1] http://jezebel.com/5985110/new-york-fashion-weeks-models-are...

[2] http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/macy-hit-class-action-sh...

[3] http://valleywag.gawker.com/harvard-study-black-people-get-s...

[4] http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1934432

[5] http://valleywag.gawker.com/racial-profiling-newest-trend-in...

[6] http://qz.com/149342/the-uncomfortable-racial-preferences-re...

[7] see p. 4, http://ccrjustice.org/files/Report-CCR-NYPD-Stop-and-Frisk.p...


His point was that Kayak, who is simply a lead generator has no incentive to do so, not that discrimination doesn't exist in the world.


who is simply a lead generator

The busines model of lead gen is $/per Y. Y is typical a matrix, with quality as the main variation. In plain english, high quality leads are worth a premium. The business of assessing quality, at scale, is through indirect statistical techniques (ie, loose correlations of observed characteristics to perceived quality). "Not Black" is a piece of observed data that loosely correlates with higher quality for many high-net worth customers in the following market segments: ebay, air-bnb, fashion, dating, and real estate. The nexus of {fashion, dating, real-estate} is pretty strong if you consider the perspective of evolutionary psychology. Alternatively, you are talking the more important parts of a hierarchy of needs pyramid. Or put another way, this is the stuff rich people are most likely to "irrationally" throw money at. Expensive clubs, fancy cars, and flashy homes. Precisely the target market for 1st class travel, which is not business class (obviously).

This is a devils advocate position, but its worth thinking through. It (was) not meant to be just a "shock and awe" type of analysis just to get a rise out of people.


Half of your citations are Gawker. Do you work for them or something? Why would you link to Internet equivalent of the trashiest British tabloid?


Half of your citations are Gawker

The links to original research are trivially available.

But if this type of comment makes you feel special, no worries.

http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/14-054_e3c04a...

http://kentbrew.github.io/profiling-atherton/


>Imagine if the NYSE priced publicly traded equities in this manner?

Actually, stock exchanges like NYSE are accused of front-running, the SEC has been investigating for a few years already.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1000087239639044398920... Or if you prefer a 50 minute documentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFQJNeQDDHA


Airlines are masters of dynamic pricing via algorithms which they constantly tune. I've written some AirAsia scraping code in Java + Selenium web driver that runs every hour on a VPS - I use it just to discover the best time to buy holiday flights. Have noticed that prices for a particular route often change several times a day.


How is there front running when there are only two parties in the transaction?


A market maker can front-run you with 3rd party inventory (just like Kayak).


Huh. I didn't know Kayak dealt with 3rd party inventory. Interesting.


Not front running the traditional sense, what I believe they are referring to is when you search for a flight, then come back and search it again and its gone up by $80 since they know you are interested in that destination but didnt book it last time.


This technique goes back long before the Internet. I recall working in a computer store where it was a standard practice to give someone a quote with an expiry date, and if they missed the time limit extra money would be tacked on with some made-up BS excuse (We sold out of Foobars and the new shipment came in at a higher price).

It was the exact same reasoning: The customer walked away, shopped around, and came back because we have everyone else beat. So now we need to raise our price as much as possible without making it worth their while to go back to someone else.

And in fact, they probably are in our place because someone else raised their price on them, or disclosed hidden gotchas, so we have leverage.


Pull that trick on me and I'd go a mile out of my way not to give you business any more. And I wouldn't be alone. Punishment of cheaters and exploiters is a human social instinct.


Your outrage is noted. I feel exactly the same way about the way highly admired companies around here behave, only they have nicer names for exploitation like "price discrimination" and "market segmentation" and "monetizing customers."


The universities have that one won hands-down: they call it "financial aid."


So it's okay to lie to your customers and be an asshole as long as other people are doing it too.


No, that's not what I said. What I said was, I understand his outrage, and here's an example of where I feel it too. Empathy.


Is there cheating going on here?


There is if you lie to the customer. There isn't if you say "Tough bananas, the written quote expired, we both get to renegotiate."


Fair enough.


This has nothing to do with the VPN, unfortunately.

The price difference comes from Southwest's price being different than Delta's. Southwest flights wont show up when searching Kayak's USA site, but they do show up on international Kayak pages. It sounds like that's because they don't want to pay the brokerage fees for flights booked through the USA versions of Kayak/Expedia/Travelocity -- but I'm not sure of that.

Interesting experiment though!


I just tried BOS-DEN nonstop 31 Jan to 7 Feb through the UK† and Canada††. Southwest came in cheapest on both searches. As has been noted, Southwest did not appear in the same search using www.kayak.com.

I was coming from a US IP. I wonder, if I had been coming from a British or Canadian IP, if I would have been redirected to the corresponding site.

http://www.kayak.co.uk/flights/BOS-DEN/2014-01-31/2014-02-07

††http://www.ca.kayak.com/flights/BOS-DEN/2014-01-31/2014-02-0...


Does source IP address make a difference when searching fares on ITA Software's Matrix[1]? To my knowledge, ITA Software is where Kayak and many of the other booking sites get their data, so it's normally what I use when searching for flights. Since they don't actually sell tickets, I've always assumed I'm seeing "neutral" results, but now I'm curious.

[1] http://matrix.itasoftware.com


ITA software might be "neutral", but it omits certain carriers that don't supply fare rules to it, excluding many low cost carriers, for instance. As such, I can beat it without trying very hard simply by going to direct to the websites of the likes of Ryanair or AirAsia if I know they're operating on a particular route, which is a shame, because I like their interface. Or, in this instance, Southwest.

Some of the travel sites using ITA's QPX API to drive their booking engine get prices from these other airlines via direct feeds or web scraping, but as pointed out here, they can be quite selective in what they're willing or able to show

It's still ludicrously easy to trip up the flight comparison services up with edge cases like the short domestic Yangon-Mandalay route, where ITA finds nothing, most booking engines offer ridiculously expensive flights connecting in China or Bangkok, whilst Innovata Quicktrip (which you should use when you're convinced there are direct flights the big sites aren't showing you) shows multiple direct flights a day with 6 different local airlines, provided you don't mind their clumsy twentieth century booking operations.

TLDR: Use Quicktrip (which doesn't give direct prices) to check if there are budget airlines or local airlines also flying on direct routes that the big search sites might not be showing, and try these unlisted airlines' websites direct if they seem more promising.


Google bought out itasoftware so I'm not going to assume that it's completely neutral, but I have consistently seen the best deals come through that. I don't even bother using Kayak anymore as the "calendar" function on itasoftware is so much more useful for someone like me with a relatively flexible schedule on most of my trips.

I can't confirm, but I assume from personal experience that kayak increases prices on flights as you search for the same flight multiple times.


I've had this anecdotal experience as well. How is this legal?


Of course it is legal. In the same way as it is legal to set the sale price for (most) things at any (arbitrarily high, or low) value - airline ticketing takes place in a free market.

This means sellers can offer tickets at any price they want, and it is up to the purchaser to signal whether they think the price is appropriate by buying the ticket (or not) at some price. The alternative is government interference or regulation of the airline ticket industry, setting fixed prices, which would not be good for the industry.


No, your IP has no effect; by default, you're seeing prices as if they were booked from the departure city.

Matrix lets you specify the the "sales city" (the last field in the advanced search options), which allows you to check out price discrimination by location.


I've often hacked Kayak by booking flights to other destinations with a stopover at the place I want to go. It's bizarre, but yes, they're sometimes cheaper.

"opaque and manipulative" indeed.


That only works for one-ways or on the return portion. Once you miss a segment the rest of your ticket is canceled at that point, so be careful.


This is called hidden-city ticketing, it's not new.

Most airlines forbid it in their contract of carriage. There's also no guarantee that you'll keep your stopover city—you could get rerouted through another hub and would have no recourse.


I have a similarly bizarre little story that's sort of the opposite: I recently added a leg to a trip and cut my fare.

Just before the holidays, I was trying to get a flight from LAX to SLC. I tend to fly Southwest, but was finding the fares higher than usual -- generally I can get something in the $250-$300 range, I was seeing $350ish.

I was offered a ride to Sacramento, so I checked SAC -> SLC and found I could purchase that flight for $200. I booked it.

There are no direct flights from SAC -> SLC on Southwest, though. Mine, as it turned out, stopped over in... LAX.


This is actually not "bizarre". It's not even unusual. And it has a perfectly rational explanation.

Suppose there are three cities: City A, City B and City C. And for simplicity's sake, suppose that City B is the hub for the airline.

Let's say B and C are major business destinations with a lot of business traffic between them. Business travelers are less price-sensitive since they're not personally paying the fare (they just have to stay within corporate travel rules), and more concerned with things like flight length and schedule.

But City A, on the other hand, isn't really a major business destination. People who want to go from City A to other cities are likely on personal/tourist travel, and those passengers do one and only one thing: punch the origin and destination cities into a travel-search engine, and pick the cheapest ticket. All other considerations are null.

Now, suppose that you are the airline employee in charge of maximizing revenue. Getting money out of the B -> C route is easy -- you just need to know a bit about corporate travel policies. If most companies auto-approve any ticket under $500, for example, you could set the fare at $499 and, so long as the flight is short and at a good time of day, you'll get business travelers paying it.

But what about pricing for trips out of City A? They need to connect at your hub in City B, but again you have to remember that price is the only consideration that matters to those passengers. So you set the fares out of City A as low as you can manage while still being profitable (and it may even turn out that B -> C has to subsidize the routes out of A a bit).

The result is, often, that A -> B -> C is cheaper than B -> C.

Similarly, for some city pairs, A -> B -> C will be cheaper than A -> B, which creates an incentive to buy the A -> B -> C ticket, not check a bag, and then just walk out of the airport in City B. This is "hidden city" ticketing (because it's "hiding" the fact that your real destination is the connection point), and airlines will usually penalize (through revocation of frequent-flyer accounts, etc.) passengers who do this.


Kayak has a feature they call Hacker Fares™†.

http://www.kayak.com/news/a-new-way-to-find-deals-on-flights...


Those are nothing special, they are just buying two one-way tickets on different airlines because they are cheaper in a particular scenario. Airlines don't care if you do that.


I wonder if they're doing price elasticity experiments? You could get a slightly cheaper price by getting a different cookie set.


I'm from Australia. My wife and I regularly use Expedia and other US travel websites to book Australian domestic flights - even after our exchange rate conversion it still works out cheaper (often we save one or two hundred dollars). Australian airfare taxes are insane. The only downside is when things go wrong it is expensive to spend ages on hold while making an international call...


>expensive to spend ages on hold while making an international call

Did you try using Skype? Or Google Voice? Or similar? They are much cheaper than actually placing an international call, at least in the US, it is only like 3 cents a minute (US)

When I lived abroad I called home with Skype (this was before Google Voice) and I could talk as much as a wanted for only a couple dollars here and there, actually cheaper than my phone bill now.


Well they do advertise here in Australia


Startup idea:

A site that uses a bunch of VPNs in different countries to look for flights on the big search sites. Whichever is cheaper is presented as the one to buy.

It could of course be extended beyond airline travel...


Be prepared to be blocked. Each search on a site like Kayak costs money, and if a bunch of searches are being done automatically it will lower the conversion rate, which meta-search sites and their partners watch closely and care deeply about.


I doubt a search a day would even show on the radar


Wouldn't be a very successful startup then anyway would it?


not if they use that to predict which routes are cheaper in that day and then use the client browser to request the real time data from the top contenders


I like the idea. I think in general, you can get some things cheaper from retailers in other countries based on differences in the forex rate if the shipping + tax issues are not a problem. You wouldn't even usually need a VPN, just change the language/country settings.

The downside is that things may be cheaper because they weren't subject to some type of import tariff that you may be on the hook for from customs when it arrives in the US.


While booking flights in Europe I frequently toggle through kayak.de, kayak.it, lastminute, and kayak.com. Doesn't require a VPN, it's just that Kayak works through partners and the partners are country specific. You can often get better deals on one site or another, depending on the partner selection.

I haven't used it that much in North America recently, but it seems to be the same dynamic.


"BTW, I use the VPN to mask my internet traffic… sorry NSA"

As if using a VPN made you NSA-proof. Every time I see phrases like this I force myself not to think the person is a fool but it's hard.

People need to realize that ensuring security and privacy isn't fixed by installing just some tool and be done with it. Worse, they will do this and trust they are immune (and then the damage will be worse).


I'm aware it is not NSA proof.


You may be aware, but some of your readers may not. So some may think you're a fool to say that and other's may think it's a good way to stay safe. Both not really desirable.


I experimented with this a few months ago using free Amazon Windows EC2 instances. The thought being that with EC2 instances I can come from far more IP end points than a specific VPN offers. What I found is many ticket/event sites ban connections from EC2 IP ranges. Sites like Kayak, TicketMaster, even Healthcare.gov drop incoming EC2 connections during the TCP handshake. I imagine this is to stop third party scrappers or ticket scalpers. I have no idea why Healthcare.gov blocks it.


The difference is southwest. I think Southwest is not offered as an option on the US side but apparently is if booking from outside the US.

I just checked Southwest's website and the same flight is offered for $255.00 round trip.


I do not work for Kayak. However, I believe that this may be due to the sale's city of the ticket. This is typically to encourage discounts in specific cities. When tickets are issued one aspect of the ticket is that it has a "sales location"


No need for VPN - same result can be achieved (at least on this flight) by toggling the country manually to Canada.


Flight price quotes can take the currency and sales city as input. You get to play with both those options in ITA matrix.

What you saw is probably based on those inputs being changed.


changing your user agent also works in some websites (not sure about kayak though)

protip: don't let them know you have a mac book pro


They don't give you higher prices with a Macbook Pro, they might just suggest higher priced things.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1000142405270230445860...


You don't need a VPN to do this. You can just go to Southwest.com. I always check their website after I check Kayak because they don't list Southwest's flights.


This sounds quite familiar to the manipulation Orbitz did in 2012 based on the user's reported operating system: http://appleinsider.com/articles/12/06/25/orbitz_displaying_...


That is incorrect and unfortunate that it left the wrong impression in user's minds. Orbitz did not price up hotels based on OS, they chose to change the list of options presented to users based on OS. This is no different than what we simply call "personalization". If a user found the Wynn on a Mac or a PC, they were the same exact price, all that was different was what position that hotel was in in the default sort order.


That's an awful fine distinction there.


It's simply a sort algorithm that takes into account any possible signal including OS, Browser, IP / Geo, past purchase behavior, etc. If you figure out that Mac users on average tend to click more on "boutique" hotels that have better design, why would it be wrong to feature those higher up in the results list? It just so happens that those hotels tend to be more pricey but they certainly did not "price" up the same hotel for Mac users. One is standard personalization, the other is price discrimination, and the headline made it sound like the latter.


Not really. Kayak is using geolocation to detect the sales country. Airline tickets have always had different prices depending on the country of purchase.


> (BTW, I use the VPN to mask my internet traffic… sorry NSA)

Unfortunately, that's not true and will even draw attention.

This XKeyScore slide is crazy: http://hothardware.com/newsimages/Item26839/Xkeyscore1.jpg


XkeyScore can decrypt my tunneled connection with aes-256, sha256? I knew the nsa was good but not that good... where does it say it decrypts the vpn tunnels of any kind on the slide though I'm curious -_-


Is your goal to be anonymous on your web? Because the traffic isn't encrypted when it leaves the VPN and your browser cookies (or various apps phoning home) will make your identity obvious.


No my goal is simply to evade the NSA wiretaps as well as my ISP who has recently started messing up my internet connection whenever I torrent, so I vpn overseas and torrent. But yes you are correct, in order to browse privately you should really use tails or something along with vpn and avoid say logging into facebook or anything linked to your identity.


The "TL;DR" at the top of the post is completely different than the actual content of the post.


Fixed


Kayak is not the only one, in India I have seen MakeMyTrip did not show couple of direct flights which I found on Cleartrip .

I would like to know if using VPN has a impact on large sites like Amazon(I have seen the price change there too)


Flight metasearch sites have contracts with airlines and OTAs for specific markets, so you're likely to see different inventory if you visit a Canadian site instead of a US site, for example. Seeing different prices on the same inventory is much less likely (disregarding taxes and exchange rates.)

Like others have said, Southwest inventory doesn't often appear on sites like Kayak because they want customers to book directly. That cuts out the commission to Kayak and conditions people to look for flights on southwest.com in the future.


I just did this for a CheapoAirFlights.co.uk flight to Saigon from London. Booking from a US IP cost a few hundred more, but I fired up the VPN and it worked fine.


OTAs have all kinds of weird tricks raising and lowering prices to get people to book sooner rather than later. Instead of realizing that providing good service with a nice clean interface is the way to go they use these cheap tricks. Agoda, Booking.com and many other OTAs all do this sort of thing. Sometimes it's as simple and clearing your cookies to get a lower rate.


The word hack becomes cheaper and cheaper each day.


Right or wrong, I have no opinion, but at this point, that word is used in the general population and popular media to mean, "I thought about a problem or situation differently than I usually do."

I think the lifehack movement started that train of thought. I'm not really sure.


How much do fare change by location? Is it only a US vs. Canada things or are prices dependent on the US location from which the search is being made? It would be interesting to create a price map of various fares searched from different states in the US...


there is working a trick for long distance flights. I used it a few times to get cheaper tickets:

when you are buying long distance flight tickets, pick a city close to where you will depart (this will add an additional flight transferring from your departure city). When you get multiple transfers there is a possibility that the offered price will be cheaper (I confirmed this with an agency when I initially figured this out). If you get a cheaper price buy it and call the airlines to tell them you will miss the first flight, and have them correct the check in location to your departure city. I was able to save $100 travelling from europe to east coast last time I did this.


Do this often enough and the airline will ban you. This is hidden city ticketing and repeated abuses will lead the airline to simply drop you as a customer.


This is called abusing customer service.

How the tell if you're not being ethical:

If every single person does it, does the system break down? If the answer is yes, then stop.


Ticket prices will also be different if you use an international credit card. I used to save 100+ bucks with paypal instead of my Chinese credit card.


BTW, I use the VPN to mask my internet traffic… sorry NSA

That's okay. I'm sure the minor inconvenience of not seeing the data flow directly to your local IP is more than made up for by the data collection at both sides of that VPN...

To be serious, I wonder if they apply extra scrutiny to VPN providers, and use traffic analysis to build correlations between TCP connections. The extra effort might be justified by a higher class of data going across the connections.

Then again, it's probably easier to just use some form of evercookie injected into TCP streams on the fly...


To me, the moral of the story is rather: Use another search engine than Kayak. Others, like Skyscanner, include Southwest.


@OP PSS == "post script script". I do not think that means what you think it means.


>(BTW, I use the VPN to mask my internet traffic… sorry NSA).

>BTGuard

>

>mfw

oh hackernews..


BTGuard is based in Canada and they have a strict policy of not keeping logs. What's your point?


Well, for one thing, you've taken your domestic internet traffic -- which has legal protections against many types of NSA intrusion -- and traded it for foreign traffic which has virtually no protection.


ok so use a vpn located in america. Boom.


And what protections does the NSA even respect?!? Dont make me die of laughter man.



Cool. So just booking one flight pays for almost a years worth of VPN service.


Check your user agent line; Apple owners might overpay as well...


Wait! There's something cheaper from Canada???


Someone going to Phish?


Just tried this myself and it definitely makes a difference. Thanks for the tip.


Ditto. Tried the same thing, and a United flight went from $400 to $356 on Kayak.




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