Clearing Cookies or Searching Incognito Does Not Show Cheaper Flight Prices – Here’s Why Your Search History Does Not Matter (2023)
Browser cookies do not affect flight prices. It is a common myth that your search history dictates the prices airlines show you, but it is simply not true. Here is how the myth started and ways you can actually find cheaper flight deals.
Table of Contents
Your Search History Does Not Impact Flight Prices
The claim makes sense on the surface. Airlines and online travel agencies monitor flights that you are searching for through cookies. They then raise prices on those routes so you panic buy before it gets even more expensive.
It is just a myth. Airline prices are dynamic and are affected by many known and unknown factors, but personal search history is not one of them. As more tickets in a particular fare class (or bucket) are sold, it raises the minimum ticket price. Additionally, supply and demand greatly influences flight prices.
Clearing Your Browser Cookies Does Nothing, But it is Not Harmful
Many travelers are convinced that clearing cookies is the key to getting the lowest possible flight price. While it is a myth, it is not really harmful. Clearing your cookies is easy and only takes a few seconds. It may temporarily slow access to sites you regularly visit, but there is no harm in doing it.
Clear your cookies by all means, but do not do it with the expectation of seeing cheaper flight prices.
Searching for Flights Incognito Does Nothing, Too
Searching for flights incognito means your browser will not save any cookies. Ultimately, it is another way to take cookies out of the equation. Like clearing cookies, searching incognito is easy. Your airline or online travel agency’s website may load a bit slower. You may also have to log in again, but other than that, there is no harm in doing it.
As with clearing cookies, do not expect cheaper flight deals just because you are searching incognito.
Why Some People Still Swear by the Myth
Regardless of the evidence, many people still believe clearing cookies or searching incognito is the key to finding the best flight prices. Here are a few potential reasons why the myth continues to circulate.
- The flight price coincidentally went down after clearing cookies
- The third-party booking website’s price caught up to the airline’s price
Flight prices often change many times throughout the day. This is especially true for popular routes and during high-volume times. Seeing a cheaper price after clearing your cookies or switching to incognito is just a coincidence. Had you not cleared your cookies, you’d have seen the lower price, too.
At times, you may even see a higher price after clearing your cookies. But remember, clearing your cookies did not influence the price and make it more expensive. It just went up!
At times, third-booking flight booking websites, like Expedia, may lag behind the airline. That means the price you see is not the current price because of a delay. Clearing your cookies does nothing in this situation to get you a better deal. Any price changes you see are just the data lining up.
Factors That Actually Influence Flight Prices
Here are a few things that cause flight prices to change. Remember, your browser cookies have nothing to do with any of them.
Supply and Demand
Prices for popular routes during popular times of the year may change multiple times per day. As more people buy tickets, prices go up. It is simple supply and demand. For such routes, I recommend purchasing your ticket as early as possible.
That means at least three months before domestic flights and six months before international flights. During very popular times like holidays, you should buy even earlier.
Further Reading: Best & Worst Times to Fly for the Holiday Season
Fare Classes Selling Out
I see this one all the time. Google Flights, or the airline, lists the flight price at a rate that just seems too low. It is usually because it is for a basic economy fare, and those tend to sell out quickly for certain routes. After the last seat in the lowest class sells out, the next class becomes the baseline price for the flight. Here is an example.
- Basic Economy Price: $89 (former base price)
- Main Cabin Price: $149 (new base price after basic economy sells out)
If the price for a flight seemingly doubles overnight, it may be because basic economy, or the current lowest fare class, sold out.
The Vacationer Tip
If you see a low price for your flight, purchase the tickets and research later. As long as your flight touches U.S. soil at some point and is booked directly with the airline at least seven days in advance, you qualify for the 24-hour flight cancellation rule.
Your Location (Using a VPN to Change it May Help)
Some people swear that flight prices are affected by your location. I’m still skeptical, but there appears to be more truth to it than the cookie-clearing myth. The claim says airlines charge cheaper rates for those in lower-demand locations.
This means someone in the United States may be shown a more expensive rate for a flight to Canada than someone in Mexico. You can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to change your IP address to a different location. This is a little more involved than simply clearing your cookies or browsing incognito, but it is still a fairly low effort to do.
I do not use a VPN when searching for flights, but it is worth a try.
How to Find Cheap Flights
With the common myths out of the way, here are a few ways to find cheap flight deals.
- Use Google Flights (see how to use Google Flights to find cheap flights)
- Track prices with a Google Flights alert
- Be flexible with your travel dates
- Be flexible with your destination
- Consider all nearby airports and all airlines
- Travel during the shoulder season and avoid busy times
- Consider a fare with a connection
- Travel on the cheapest days of the week to fly
- Cheap flight deals are available 24/7 (see the best and worst days to book flights)
- Avoid wasting time on other common flight booking myths
- Use a travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, and The Platinum Card® from American Express to earn bonus points for flight bookings as well as other air travel benefits.
Clearing browser cookies does not influence flight prices. It is a common myth with no validity.
Browsing incognito does not influence flight prices. It is a common myth with no validity.
Airlines use many factors to dictate flight prices. Supply and demand, fare class availability, and location are a few of the reasons for frequent changes.
It’s a coincidence. Neither of those things impacted the price.
It might, but I would not bank on it. Regardless, it does not hurt to try.
The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts
While not harmful, clearing browser cookies and searching incognito does not impact flight prices. As it only takes a few seconds, feel free to try it. Many frequent travelers are still convinced it works despite evidence to the contrary. You just should not expect it to be a magic bullet. Instead, follow proven methods to find the cheapest flights like using Google Flights, flying on the best days of the week, and using the best websites to book cheap flights.
Get The Vacationer Newsletter
Get highlights of the most important news delivered to your email inbox