Get cheaper flights with a VPN

When browsing online for the best getaway deal, have you ever wondered why the price of flights tends to increase from one day to the next? Tracking cookies that log your visits to certain sites are often thought to be the main culprit when it comes to not getting the best deals on flights, with vendors accused of bumping the prices up gradually every time you browse. Many people clear their browsing cache and cookies regularly to try and get better prices – but this doesn’t always work as well as you might think.

Airlines and flight comparison websites often offer different prices to people booking from different locations – for example, the cost of return flights from New York to London might be lower for someone booking in Vietnam than someone booking in the USA. Websites can see your location and adjust their prices accordingly, meaning that even if you’ve cleared your cookies and look like a fresh new site visitor, you may still miss out on the best deals.

So, how do you play the system to ensure that you get the most for your money, without breaking any rules? The best way to do so is by using VPN. To find out how exactly a VPN can get you cheaper flights, here’s a rundown of how they work and how flight comparison websites hoist up their prices.

How do websites generate prices?

When generating prices, flight comparison sites take into consideration a whole range of factors. These include your location, the currency you will pay with, the point of sale and device data, among other things. Booking flights from the UK, USA or Australia can sometimes be more expensive than if you were booking flights from a lower-income country. As well as looking at your location, websites take into consideration the amount of interest you’re showing when searching for flights. Most websites use cookies to track your searches, allowing them to see if you’re showing most interest in a specific option, therefore raising the price of those tickets.

Flight comparison websites can track your location using your IP Address and HTML5 code. If you’re using a smartphone or tablet to browse through flights, websites can also detect your location through using the GPS data on your device. While clearing your cookies and browsing history can stop sites from knowing that you’re particularly keen on your top flight choices, this doesn’t stop them from knowing where in the world you’re browsing from – to keep that information private, and to have the option of browsing as if you’re in another location, you’ll need to use a VPN.

VPN, cache and cookies explained

Your cache is essentially a storage space that remembers web page elements that your browser – such as Chrome or Firefox – thinks it might need again. This might be certain scripts and graphic files, form fills or saved passwords. The aim of a cache is to speed up the way you browse the web, but just as it remembers information about websites to make your browsing faster, it also helps websites to interact with you differently based on your past activity.

Cookies are text files designed to help websites keep track of your browsing – it allows them to see whether you’ve visited their site before, how many times, and in some cases how long you’ve spent on site and what’s been in your shopping basket.

Clearing your cookies and cache deletes your browsing history, which can help reset prices, allowing you to see the price your desired flights cost before you’d returned to the site a few times. But remember that websites will still be able to detect your IP address, which is one of the easiest ways they can track your location. There is no guarantee that the cheaper original price you first saw is lower than the alternative price you might see if you use a VPN.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN), allows you to browse the internet anonymously and securely by encrypting the connection between your device and the internet. A VPN service is essentially a series of computer networks scattered across various countries and locations, which redirect and hide your web traffic, making it difficult if not impossible for websites to see where you are and what you’re doing.

By using a VPN, you can turn any public connection into one that is secure, through which your online activity isn’t trackable. If anyone, even your ISP, attempts to look at the data being sent to and from your computer, they won’t be able to decipher it because of the layer of encryption added. Instead of seeing information about your device, location, activity and preferences, anyone trying to view your data would see only encryption keys – indecipherable letters and numbers that appear to have no meaning.

So how does a VPN help secure cheaper flights?

Though it will vary from operator to operator, many companies offer their services at different prices to people purchasing them from different locations. With a VPN, you can choose to connect to the internet via a server in another country, allowing you to see the prices offered to that country instead of your own. In the process, your actual geographical location is masked. You can still choose to depart from the country you’re actually based in, which sometimes makes a big difference to cost, and is great if you’re flying on a budget.

You can also use a VPN to change your IP address to the country where an airline is based. For example, if you’re looking to fly with Qatar Airways, you can set your IP address to one in Qatar and you might be offered lower prices.

Is a VPN legal?

In most countries, yes. However, there are certain authoritarian countries where VPNs are banned completely, while other countries are controlled by the government. If you’re also concerned about whether or not it’s legal to book flights using a VPN, fear no more. Flight comparison sites and airlines do not have a problem with people using a VPN to book flights – as far as they’re concerned, you’re no different to any other customer purchasing services from the specified country.

Secure and simple to use, VPNs are cheap and sometimes free to download, so if you are looking to save money on flights and find the best deals, your best option is to use a VPN.

About the author: Tabby Farrar is an Outreach Specialist and freelance copywriter. As well as working with a number of cyber security brands, she also runs the travel tips website Just Can’t Settle.