AS Using Cookies to Screw You?

Old Jul 29, 14, 4:05 pm
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AS Using Cookies to Screw You?

So I just booked a flight using miles for my family from SEA to SFO in late Sept. I did an initial search and found a bunch of 12.5K fares in each direction at times that I thought wold work for me and put a round trip in the cart. Before buying, I checked with my wife to confirm times/dates but it took her a couple hours to get back to me. I went back to the site to buy the tickets, which were no longer in the cart, so I repeated the search and found that every flight near the times I'd selected earlier had bumped up to 20K.

Hmmm.

I cleared my cookies, closed my browser, redid my search, and lo and behold, all the original 12.5K fares came back.

Not only did I almost get screwed for 75K miles on this trip, but I just had the same thing happen when I booked another family trip last month and didn't think to clear my cookies, so I just paid up.

I've been flying AS as my primary domestic carrier for 15 years, I've got over a decade of top-tier status with them, and I've always felt fairly treated by them but this sort of thing undermines a lot of loyalty.

Anyone else seen this happen?
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Old Jul 29, 14, 4:12 pm
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Originally Posted by IStream View Post
So I just booked a flight using miles for my family from SEA to SFO in late Sept. I did an initial search and found a bunch of 12.5K fares in each direction at times that I thought wold work for me and put a round trip in the cart. Before buying, I checked with my wife to confirm times/dates but it took her a couple hours to get back to me. I went back to the site to buy the tickets, which were no longer in the cart, so I repeated the search and found that every flight near the times I'd selected earlier had bumped up to 20K.

Hmmm.

I cleared my cookies, closed my browser, redid my search, and lo and behold, all the original 12.5K fares came back.

Not only did I almost get screwed for 75K miles on this trip, but I just had the same thing happen when I booked another family trip last month and didn't think to clear my cookies, so I just paid up.

I've been flying AS as my primary domestic carrier for 15 years, I've got over a decade of top-tier status with them, and I've always felt fairly treated by them but this sort of thing undermines a lot of loyalty.

Anyone else seen this happen?
Slim chance but someone could have been making dummy bookings for the same dates as you - effectively holding the fares but not buying - and backed out in the end.

Pretty sure this type of business would be frowned upon by FAA, BBB, etc... if AS were to be caught.
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Old Jul 29, 14, 4:17 pm
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Originally Posted by MonThruThurs View Post
Slim chance but someone could have been making dummy bookings for the same dates as you - effectively holding the fares but not buying - and backed out in the end.

Pretty sure this type of business would be frowned upon by FAA, BBB, etc... if AS were to be caught.
I think the odds are vanishingly small that happened. The flights were ~60 days out and the time between my pre- and post-cookie search was ~60 seconds.
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Old Jul 29, 14, 7:22 pm
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Did you save the cookies. The easiest way to confirm this would be to try visiting the search page without the cookies and then load those specific cookies and try searching again.

I agree with MonThruThurs, this seems vanishingly unlikely.
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Old Jul 29, 14, 9:57 pm
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I know that this used to go on at DL with Skymiles. Too many data queries and the Low awards would disappear.
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Old Jul 29, 14, 10:21 pm
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With one way fares less than $100 on this route, even 12.5K seems like a lot of miles for such an inexpensive ticket, especially given the fact that you can fly to Alaska or the East Coast for the same amount of miles if you find saver availability.
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Old Jul 29, 14, 10:57 pm
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I had something similar happen to me on an American flight. Booked the flight all the way up to right before the credit card and then got called away. I came back and couldn't finish the booking. Tried again, but the seats I originally held were showing occupied. Decided I really wanted those seats. Waited another hour or so. Then the fare jumps up. Wait a couple more hours and the system finally cleared out my original booking and the fare dropped back to the level I wanted. Then I finished my booking. So I think it's multiple inquiries and your original booking still may have been being held by the system.
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Old Jul 30, 14, 6:42 am
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http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea....ck-cost-miles/

This blog post (about AA) had a comment (#24) that said AA's systems apparently took a seat out of a fare bucket for 55 minutes when it was booked (and not purchased).

Don't AA and AS use a similar back-end system? It may not be cookies, but rather the way the system is set up (which obviously wasn't set up in the internet era where everybody and their brother can search for tickets).
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Old Jul 30, 14, 9:18 am
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The system isn't intelligent enough to do what you're accusing it of doing. Seats come in and out of inventory all the time. If they were released too quickly, "we" would be screaming that we lost the seat when we took a quick phone call and came back without even closing the screen.
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Old Jul 30, 14, 9:33 am
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Originally Posted by IStream View Post
I cleared my cookies, closed my browser, redid my search, and lo and behold, all the original 12.5K fares came back.

...

I've always felt fairly treated by them but this sort of thing undermines a lot of loyalty.
I sympathize with your plight, but am not sure it's a measure of disloyalty to have this sort of adaptive pricing display online. It happens *all of the time* on shopping websites, and to expect the airline industry to ignore a profitable strategy is unreasonable.

Methinks you are offended by their standard corporate pursuit of shareholder value. Then again, I would be upset too, if I had to overpay. In all fairness, I love Alaska, but I'm no longer surprised by what companies will do to make a buck anymore.

Solution: Browse and buy all travel (plane, hotel, etc.) on a private browsing setting. No saved cookies = no corresponding rise in prices after several test bookings.

On Firefox, it's called "Private Browsing," on Chrome, it's called "Incognito" browsing, on Internet Explorer (why are you still using this, btw?) it's called "InPrivate Browsing."

Happy bargain hunting.

-AD
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Old Jul 30, 14, 12:22 pm
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Originally Posted by airbornedaddy View Post
I sympathize with your plight, but am not sure it's a measure of disloyalty to have this sort of adaptive pricing display online. It happens *all of the time* on shopping websites, and to expect the airline industry to ignore a profitable strategy is unreasonable.

Methinks you are offended by their standard corporate pursuit of shareholder value. Then again, I would be upset too, if I had to overpay. In all fairness, I love Alaska, but I'm no longer surprised by what companies will do to make a buck anymore.
-AD
There's revenue optimization and there's screwing the customer. As someone who's in sales, I'm aware of the difference and also that the line can be fuzzy. Limiting my 75K instant upgrades to see if someone will pay for the seat before 120 hours out is legitimate, IMHO. Screwing around with the price of my seat *as I'm in the process of buying it* is not.

I expect that .... from Delta, which I fly a lot internationally, not Alaska. If AS is stooping to that then they're no better than DL and given that I could easily choose status on DL instead of AS, they're giving me all the reason in the world to move over now that DL is expanding their SEA presence. I suspect there are many others in my position.
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Old Jul 30, 14, 1:08 pm
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Originally Posted by Eastbay1K
The system isn't intelligent enough to do what you're accusing it of doing. Seats come in and out of inventory all the time. If they were released too quickly, "we" would be screaming that we lost the seat when we took a quick phone call and came back without even closing the screen.
This seems much more logical with the sabre backend.
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Old Jul 30, 14, 5:38 pm
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Originally Posted by IStream View Post
There's revenue optimization and there's screwing the customer. As someone who's in sales, I'm aware of the difference and also that the line can be fuzzy. Limiting my 75K instant upgrades to see if someone will pay for the seat before 120 hours out is legitimate, IMHO. Screwing around with the price of my seat *as I'm in the process of buying it* is not.

I expect that .... from Delta, which I fly a lot internationally, not Alaska. If AS is stooping to that then they're no better than DL and given that I could easily choose status on DL instead of AS, they're giving me all the reason in the world to move over now that DL is expanding their SEA presence. I suspect there are many others in my position.
Logically, what sense does it make to ever show the saver price to you at all to put in your cart, if AS is going to "screw" you? To most effectively "screw" you, why not never show low, ever?

You seem quite willing to jump to malice instead of some measure of incompetence.
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Old Jul 30, 14, 6:00 pm
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Originally Posted by eponymous_coward View Post
Logically, what sense does it make to ever show the saver price to you at all to put in your cart, if AS is going to "screw" you? To most effectively "screw" you, why not never show low, ever?

You seem quite willing to jump to malice instead of some measure of incompetence.
It isn't even a measure of incompetence. It is the programmed release time back into inventory by the GDS for a seat request that isn't either canceled or confirmed.
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Old Jul 30, 14, 6:04 pm
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Originally Posted by eponymous_coward View Post
Originally Posted by IStream View Post
There's revenue optimization and there's screwing the customer. As someone who's in sales, I'm aware of the difference and also that the line can be fuzzy. Limiting my 75K instant upgrades to see if someone will pay for the seat before 120 hours out is legitimate, IMHO. Screwing around with the price of my seat *as I'm in the process of buying it* is not.

I expect that .... from Delta, which I fly a lot internationally, not Alaska. If AS is stooping to that then they're no better than DL and given that I could easily choose status on DL instead of AS, they're giving me all the reason in the world to move over now that DL is expanding their SEA presence. I suspect there are many others in my position.
Logically, what sense does it make to ever show the saver price to you at all to put in your cart, if AS is going to "screw" you? To most effectively "screw" you, why not never show low, ever?

You seem quite willing to jump to malice instead of some measure of incompetence.
Agreed.

Always enjoy manufactured outrage.
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