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Archive for April, 2011

Ryanair Manipulating Prices with Cookies? It’s an Urban Myth

Yes, that’s right – we’ve undertaken research which shows that Ryanair is not manipulating prices by using cookies.

Rumours allege that Ryanair uses browser cookies to unfairly push prices up. Specifically, it has been suggested that travellers who search for a flight, don’t buy it, and then carry out the same search later are given a higher price. A few users have reported that clearing their browser cookies appears to bring the price back down again.

We put this to the test in a two-day experiment, searching 52 routes in two different browsers and found no discrepancies – regardless of whether cookies were cleared or not.

What we did…

On day 1, using Firefox we ran 52 Ryanair flight searches on randomly selected routes, including return & one-way trips, and logged the prices.

On day 2, using Firefox we ran the same 52 searches and noted down the prices. However, we also carried out identical searches using Google Chrome – simultaneously with the Firefox searches. All cookies were cleared from Chrome after every search. Cookies were not cleared from Firefox at any point during the experiment.

If the price manipulation allegations were true, we would have expected to see price discrepancies in the results between Firefox and Chrome on day 2. What we actually saw were exactly the same prices on both browsers.

Is this definitive proof that Ryanair isn’t using cookies to manipulate prices? No. We only searched 52 routes from thousands of potential flight combinations, and we don’t have inside knowledge on how Ryanair sets its fares. But what we do know is that Ryanair changes its fares constantly using a sophisticated pricing model. Any number of factors could cause price fluctuations, but manipulation via browser cookies doesn’t appear to be one of them.

Ryanair the cookie monster? It’s an urban myth.

Update: Original source data is available here