Why booking travel on your phone is a bad idea

Why booking travel on your phone is a bad idea

Since the launch of the first iPhone 15 years ago, consumers’ buying habits have slowly but steadily shifted towards mobile devices. The majority of travel service purchases (51.4%) were made on mobile devices in February 2022, according to a survey of 3,250 US consumers by, a website dedicated to analyzing the role of payments in new technology.

The trend is even greater among younger shoppers. According to a 2021 survey of 13,000 shoppers by Klarna, an online payments company, around 48% of people aged 25-40 prefer to use a mobile phone for online shopping, while only 34% of shoppers globally do so We do.

It appears that shopping for travel on an old fashioned desktop or laptop computer will eventually go the way of the horse and buggy. Indeed, some travel shopping services, such as travel search engine Hopper, only offer in-app purchases for some bookings.

Although it’s more convenient to buy flights over the phone, it can be more expensive.

Watch out for Drip Pricing

The growth in mobile shopping over the past decade has coincided with a paradigm shift in the way travel brands generate revenue. Add-on fees, which include baggage and seat selection fees on flights and cleaning and resort fees with accommodations, have become more common. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, US airlines will collect $5.3 billion in baggage fees in 2021 alone.

However, a 2021 study in the journal Marketing Science found that shoppers tend to make sub-optimal decisions under these “drip pricing” conditions, that is, when they are dealt hidden fees during the checkout process. Buyers compare the starting prices of competitors, which are lower rather than higher final prices.

“When companies employ a drip pricing strategy, the initial price is almost always lower than the competitor’s all-in price,” Shel Santana, assistant professor of marketing at Bentley University and one of the study’s authors, said in an email interview. “But once they start adding amenities like checked bags, seat options, etc., the difference in prices across firms narrows and sometimes reverses.”

Anyone who’s shopped for airfare on a budget airline like Spirit or Frontier knows exactly how this “drip pricing” plays out. Yet what surprised Santana and his colleagues was how reluctant customers were to compare options, even after the final price increase.

“Consumers see the higher search costs associated with reengineering their decision process, and they think they’ll save less money than they actually will,” Santana said.

Basically, mobile shoppers go to the final checkout screen and reluctantly accept whatever fee has been added. They assume it will be a lot of trouble to start again and “think they’ll save less money than they actually will,” Santana said.

wrong tool for the job

Shopping is quick and easy on mobile devices for simple purchases, like ordering cat food or paying a bill. Yet shopping for travel is far from simple, and usually requires switching between multiple tabs and apps to find the best deal.

Consider the simple decision of whether to buy a flight with cash or reward miles. There are several steps involved. First, you’ll need to search the airline app or website for award availability, possibly while switching to a personal calendar to check the dates. Then, you’ll search a third-party flight tool like Google Flights for estimated cash fares before determining the value of the redemption in miles versus dollars. Once you’ve determined the best option, you’ll need to navigate the entire checkout process with both the cash and award flight options to determine the actual final price.

Maybe some fleet-fingered Gen Zers can manage this task on a mobile device. For many people, this is very challenging.
But even if you love scrolling for flights on your phone, or if you feel overwhelmed by the mobile-based options, follow the advice of the experts who prefer booking travel — which can be both costly and risky. Maybe – using a computer.

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