Good To Know: How Changing Your Location Can Result in Cheaper Airfare

Some of the most common questions I’m asked are “when should I buy a flight” or “do you think this is a good price for this flight” and I never have a perfect answer. Airfare pricing is confusing – it changes up to 3x daily, it varies for no discernible reason to us outsiders as it is based on secret algorithms from the airlines and if someone tells you they know the best time to find the lowest price for a flight, they are lying to you (ya that whole 3pm on Tuesday is a myth).

However, a friend forwarded me an interesting article over at Map Happy about how changing where it appears you buy the ticket from can drastically lower the price of your flight. This works best for certain international flights and domestic flights within a different country (not the US). Let me explain.

When most people go to check prices for a flight, they might use popular sites like Kayak, Orbitz, Google ITA or even the airline’s own website. The one common denominator with all those sites is that it assumes you are purchasing the ticket from the US – as in your current, physical location is in the US when purchasing the flight.  That is obviously most likely true but what the author of the article pointed out is by tricking the computer into thinking you are in a different country, you might be able to get a lower price on the SAME EXACT flight.

I’ll let you click through to the article for more details but the author cites searching for a domestic flight within Colombia on the standard sites with a US-centric approach and then searching Google ITA by changing her location to Colombia. The US-centric approach produced an Avianca flight costing $137 while when searching Google ITA while appearing to be in Colombia, the price changed to 116,280 pesos (it prices in pesos since it thinks your in Colombia) which converted to USD is only $61.59! That’s a difference of $75.41 –  Over a 55% savings!!

The one problem with Google ITA is you can’t actually book the flights through them. The author recommends going to the airline’s website at this point that had the cheapest flight and finding the menu or drop down when you can select the location you used earlier (in this case Colombia). From there, she was basically able to get the same price on the flight and save herself a ton of money for the same exact flight!

Changing your location on LAN's website for example

Changing your location on LAN’s website for example

Here are some tips to make this work for you:

  • Use Google Chrome as your web browser and use the translate feature if the website is not in English
  • Always choose the country of the flight you are searching for (i.g. searching for Brazil flights? Choose Brazil as your location)
  • Remember this works best for domestic flights within a different country (sorry but not the US)
  • Always use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees as these sites will bill your credit card in pesos or whatever the local currency is

(H/T to Dale for sharing)

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