Airlines Rip Off Americans Who Buy Online. Here’s How to Trick Them.

Three words: Virtual. Private. Network.

June 20, 2018 9:00 am

If you travel often, right now might not be the best time to tell people you’re from the U.S.

That’s not a political argument. It’s a save-you-money argument.

Why? The mere suggestion that you might be hailing from, say, India — rather than the U.S. — could save you a ton of money when you book your airfare online.

All you need is a virtual private network, which is what you should be using anyway if you want to stay safe online. VPNs create a private connection within a public network, and enhance security and privacy in your web browsing.

And, according to TheBestVPN — an online resource started by “three passionate online privacy enthusiasts” that offers (in their words) unbiased VPN reviews — you can also use these anonymizing networks to save money. In one recent report, a reporter used VPN servers in 20 countries against five types of online purchases to see if they could save money by virtually changing their location.

As far as airfare goes, the answer seems to be yes, and quite a lot.

The issue is that airlines use cookies to track your browsing history, and raise prices if you’re a repeat customer … or they’ll do it depending on what device you’re using, or even your zip code. To circumvent these price fluctuations, the site used a VPN to book a round-trip United flight from Kuala Lumpur airport to LAX. Booking from a virtual Poland instead of their actual American location, they saved over $1,100.

Similar results were found for booking rental cars. Interestingly, the opposite was true when booking hotels: a room in New York ended up costing $100 more when booked from Brazil instead of the U.S.

Because we weren’t familiar with the source of this study, we also reached out to a contact at NordVPN, a well-reviewed and popular virtual private network provider. They agreed with the findings: “The trick to find cheaper airfare is to make it appear that you’re accessing the booking website from another country, the one where you can buy the same tickets at a lower price,” our contact says. “For example, airplane tickets are sometimes cheaper when purchased in the country of origin. E.g., when buying local tickets in Latin America, you will save money if you appear to be in Latin America, not in the U.S. Sometimes it appears there is no apparent reason why tickets bought from one country cost less than booked from another country, so you just keep experimenting, and with a VPN you can easily switch between countries by connecting to that country’s server.”

Ethical? Certainly more so than the airlines using hidden dynamic pricing policies.


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.