Kayak.com Airfare Price Prediction Tool: Don’t Bother

In 2007 I wrote about a site called Farecast.com that used past data to offer a prediction on whether airfares would rise or fall in the future. I even used it to book tickets a couple times. It was soon bought and absorbed by Bing Travel (Microsoft) for $115 million in 2008 and but it has recently been killed off and is no longer available. In a recent FiveThirtyEight.com article, Kaiser Fund tested out Kayak.com’s own price prediction tool. It wasn’t a broad survey – he tracked 32 different requests and tracked the prices until Kayak said to buy. Here are the results:

kayakforecast

Out of those 32 requests, 17 resulted in immediate buy recommendations. Out of the remaining 15 that told him to wait at least one day, he eventually saved money only on 5 of them. Averaging out all the final purchase prices, they were actually 2% higher than if he just bought immediately. Fung qualifies his results by saying that even though it’s technically a draw, the tool can help those people who would otherwise second-guess their decisions.

Given that there is only one price predictor tool left and it doesn’t really seem to work all that well, I come to a different conclusion. I plan to take this knowledge and simply buy my tickets whenever the price is acceptable, saving both time and worry.

Comments

  1. Farecast was great.

  2. Samantha says:

    I was wondering what happened to the price predictor. Sucks to be you, Bing. Now there are zero reasons to ever visit that site.

  3. 32 observations seems too small to draw statistical significance.

  4. 32 observations, and 17 are not even included in the data set. And this only looked at tickets 14 days or less from departure. Hard to draw broad conclusions.

  5. John Cooper says:

    Isn’t the correct experiment to continue monitoring price AFTER Kayak recommends to buy? Ideally one would like to see the price go up in the days after the buy recommendation.

  6. The sample size is small (it’s not that hard to do your own experiment runs if you are willing to put in the work), but combine that with the demise of Bing Travel’s tool (obviously it didn’t work significantly well enough, why else would they kill it off). Finally, there are no other travel websites that offer such a tool, despite the obvious demand these days amidst rising prices. Together, I would reason that the tools today just aren’t good enough. In my opinion, for most travelers the tool would have to be significantly better than average in order to warrant the risk that prices could rise out of your budget.

  7. Offtopic but one thing I observed with kayak is by doing the same search for travel path and dates will eventually show higher prices. I was looking for PHL to DAY over 2-3 days with different date combinations but price after couple of days showed almost around $1200. I did the same search in an incognito window where the same is showing around $400. Looks like based on the cache they are hiking the prices. Just an advice

  8. I do remember that blog post about farecompare! I didn’t really use it much thou because I used frequent flier miles to booked most of my tickets and the one I paid for I purchased when I had to purchase them and didn’t have much time to wait and see what happens.

    Kayak (and other sites) do indeed track your search history and hike up prices over time, even if you don’t log Ito your account, so it’s better to put your browser into incognito/private mode before using those sites.

  9. These last couple of posts intrigued me greatly. I’d never heard of the concern that airlines were hiking up prices based on search history. It seems not outside the realm of possibility that such things are going on, but I can’t seem to find definite credible evidence anywhere that this practice occurs (at least with any consistency), or exactly what factors from a person’s past might impact personalized price offers. It should be easy enough to test out, so I may do at least a few anecdotal tests, later on. Or at the very least, next time I actually intend to buy tickets.

Speak Your Mind

*