Removing ‘location discrimination’

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New Zealand-based airfare comparison website Jettzy claims to offer lower prices than many competitors in the market by removing what it calls ‘airfare location discrimination’.

Peter Li, who founded the site in 2017, recently told Stuff.co.nz that many airfare sites use an algorithm that charges customers different prices depending on where they are at the time of booking. His website, however, has opted to avoid this by assessing all airfares equally, regardless of location, always presenting the least expensive option; an approach that other companies are reportedly starting to follow.

According to Li, who worked for a decade as a sales manager at Air New Zealand, due to fluctuations in seasonal demand, it is in airlines’ financial interest to practise location discrimination in different markets, depending on the time of year. However, when Jettzy’s algorithm identifies a cheap airfare in a different market from the person searching, it converts the currency into the customer’s local currency in order to get around this issue.

Another method of getting around such problems is to browse using an incognito window, as Southern Cross Travel Insurance’s Chris White points out: “Travel sites may be able to see how often you’ve checked their prices, and you could be charged more if they think you’re serious about booking.”

While many airlines will no doubt be disapproving of Jettzy’s tack – especially if it starts to catch on – there is certainly an argument to be made that democratisation of such marketplaces is of benefit to the customer. Ultimately, it depends on your perspective: are businesses there to serve the public, or vice versa?