Airlines could set airfare based on your income. What you need to know

Nailing down the cheapest airfare can be tough. Prices are based on a handful of factors, including route, date and demand, so they are always in flux. Now airlines might start looking at new ways to determine airfare, like your income.  

This month Sen. Chuck Schumer, (D-N.Y.) warned that some major airlines want to collect personal data from passengers and use it to influence fares. His suspicions could have stemmed from a Travel Weekly article that quoted an executive management software provider PROS, who said a few airlines had already implemented dynamic pricing on some routes on their own websites.

This practice, also known as micro-target pricing, uses customer data like online purchasing habits, browsing history and income information to set airfares.

Bottom line: it would raise fares for some, and offer discounts to others. That’s why Schumer asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.

In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to ensure you get a fair price.

Clear your cookies

Always clear the cookies in your browser each time you search for a flight. If you don’t, the browser will remember you were looking at prices and possibly show you higher fares the second time around. If you’re using Chrome or Safari  simply click on your browser dropdown menu and select “clear browsing history.” On Firefox, click the “history” dropdown menu and select “clear history.”,

Use multiple browsers

If you don’t want to clear your cookies, consider using a different browser just to search for airfare. If you initially searched for your flight on Chrome, try searching on Firefox the next time, just to compare the prices. This way your computer won’t remember you, and you’ll be shown fresh and accurate search results.

Search by price

Sites may show you the most expensive or fastest routes first, especially if the data gathered reflects that you’re a business traveler or someone who always books last minute. So remember to sort the results by price to make sure you’re seeing the cheapest options.

Set a price alert

Setting a price alert on your favorite booking site is a good way to ensure you snag the best airfare as soon as it becomes available. Some popular sites that enable notifications when a flight drops to a certain price are Hopper, Kayak, AirfareWatchdog, and Momondo.

Ultimately, there is no hard proof that airlines are using this technology just yet. But if they choose to, you’ll be prepared.  

Brittany is reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @bjonescooper

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