Ryanair coming up with unexpected tricks on its website may not be that much of a surprise for people familiar with the company. After all, it’s quite well-known that the website has been purposedly designed so as to be the most unintuitive possible. Being the only gateway to the company’s airplane tickets it is also the most important link in the chain of ancillary revenues. Thus a website as confusing as possible, designed to push forward adverts for one of the many “partners” of the airline.
A website, what’s most, built in such a way that unsuspecting buyers may find themselves buying more than they need – be that travel insurance or SMS confirmation. But that’s rather old news for those who’ve been there before. Even the European Commission recently singled out Ryanair for not providing a contact email address.
However, there might still be more to discover about the company’s booking system. Indeed, selling only one-way tickets, the airline doesn’t make money like most legacy carriers on fare-adjustments and trip construction. Yet, it seems to have its own trick up it sleeve, as shown in a tweet by @sampsonian (none other than the producer of stephenfry.com) this morning:
It seems that the company has understood that most people don’t actually buy their tickets the first time they check a trip’s cost – as they may take the time to check for other alternatives. So the company’s come up with a clever trick to get them to pay more. It seems that the website logs information relative to your visits in a cookie stored in your browser’s cache. That’s pretty standard on any website nowadays. Yet, where it gets really twisted is that, when you return, the website checks your cookie and – knowing what you checked the first time – artificially increases the price to “punish” you for not buying straight away.
It’s difficult to cross-check that information and, though it has been widely retweeted, nobody has came up yet to confirm it does work this way. That might also only be true on routes on which Ryanair has no direct competitors (otherwise it would be quite counterproductive). Still, knowing Ryanair’s habit of making passengers pay for every mistake they make, it wouldn’t even be that surprising.
[Update: Getinvisiblehand.com has done some homegrown research and testing and nothing seems to be wrong for them. As they say it's not definitive proof but it clearly hints towards a user and/or website bug more than a strategic feature on Ryanair's side.]