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Do browser cookies increase flight prices?

There's a long-standing rumour that airlines and travel agents increase flight prices when you repeat a search. The rationale is that if someone returns to a site, it shows they're more interested in making payment and as such can be charged more for their flights.

Skyscanner Australia has looked into this issue and, thankfully, there’s no evidence to back it up. If you’re still unsure, each Skyscanner search is done anonoymously, meaning travel agents and airlines don’t know it’s the same person making the searches through our site, and they can’t jack up the prices for you, cookies or not.

What are cookies?

A cookie is a file stored on your computer that records data specific to the sites you visit.

These can hold useful information like your location, the types of things you’ve searched for in the past and your usernames, which can all be used to streamline your user experience. Many cookies are destroyed once you close your browser window, but others are designed to last a long time.

Because cookies can hold search data, the worry is that when you repeat a search, a website will be able to know about your increased interest in a flight so can bump its prices up.

Do airlines increase flight prices because of previous searches?

While the rumours about this issue are rife, there is no strong evidence confirming that airlines look at cookie data to increase flight prices.

While it’s true that prices may go up when you return to a site, this is more likely due to other issues. Flight prices naturally rise closer to travel day and also when more seats on the plane are sold.

There is no reliable information at the moment that flights become cheaper when you delete your cookie cache or use a different computer to access a website.

To find out how to get the best deals on flights, be prepared and know when the best time to book a flight is, for domestic and international routes.

How can I delete or disable cookies when booking flights?

Although there’s no evidence that clearing cookies makes flight prices lower, if you want to be extra sure there’s no harm in trying. Cookies are handled by your browser and you can change settings as you please.

The way you delete your cookies depends on the web browser you use. For Chrome users, for example, simply go to the Settings section, click on ‘Advanced’ and then ‘Clear Browsing data’. All your cookies will be deleted and you’ll be able to see if the price drops again. By doing this, you may notice some other feature such as auto-login is forgotten.

Cookies can also be disabled completely by changing the privacy settings in your browser.

Do cookies affect Skyscanner search results?

No, Skyscanner search results do not change because of cookies. While we use cookies to remember things like your recent searches (when and where you might want to fly), the prices we show are given to us directly by airlines, booking sites and travel agents.

The system we use to get these prices from external sites is anonymous. Even if cookies did push the cost up on airline websites, it wouldn’t be reflected in the prices that we show to you.

How can I get the cheapest flights?

As mentioned above, one of the best ways to get cheap flights is by booking at the right time. When this time is can change by the destinations involved but, as a general rule, you’ll want to book 6 weeks ahead for trips to New Zealand, 15 weeks ahead for flights to London and 28 weeks ahead for holidays in the United States (all flying from Australia).

Skyscanner also provides Price Alerts to help you get cheap flights. Once you sign up for these, you will be kept abreast of price changes for routes you’re interested in so the price doesn’t creep up too much on you.

Being flexible with when you fly can also get you a better deal on flights. Skyscanner has plenty of hacks to find better prices. Two of the most useful are to search by the whole month to see which dates have the lowest fares and also to search for flights to everywhere, which will show which destinations have the best deals available.