Did your great airfare suddenly disappear? Blame ‘dynamic pricing.’ | The Washington Post

You probably know what Melanie Frazier felt like when she recently tried to book a flight from Portland, Maine, to Atlanta.

She found a $257 fare — not a bad deal — but by the time she got around to booking the ticket online a few hours later, the price had risen to $441. Undeterred, she set up a fare alert through Google, and a week later, sure enough, the fare plunged to $246.

Frazier, a retired federal employee who lives in Portland, went through all the steps required to purchase the ticket. “But when I hit the purchase button, a screen came up that read, ‘FARE CHANGE — Looks like there’s high demand for this flight.’ ”

The new price: $402.

Broadly speaking, Frazier experienced something called dynamic pricing. It’s where the fare or rate fluctuates, often from minute to minute, aided by sophisticated computer programs that predict demand. Chances are, it has happened to you, too.

In a perfectly fair world, a product costs the same no matter who you are or when you buy it. But the world of travel is far from perfect. Companies use dynamic pricing to maximize their profits, charging the most during times of peak demand and lowering rates when no one wants to travel. While the process seems wrong to consumers such as Frazier, industry insiders say that it’s not only necessary but fair.

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Did your great airfare suddenly disappear? Blame ‘dynamic pricing.’ – The Washington Post.