Why booking travel on your phone is a bad idea | Tech US News


Since the launch of the first iPhone 15 years ago, consumer shopping habits have slowly but relentlessly shifted towards mobile devices. According to a survey of 3,250 US consumers by Pymnts.com, a website dedicated to analyzing the role of payments in new technologies, the majority of purchases of travel services (51.4%) were made on a mobile device in February 2022.

The trend is even more pronounced among younger buyers. Some 48% of millennials aged 25 to 40 prefer to use mobile phones to shop online, compared to just 34% of all shoppers worldwide, according to a 2021 survey of 13,000 shoppers by Klarna, a online payments

So it looks like buying travel on an old-fashioned desktop will eventually go the way of the horse and cart. In fact, some travel shopping services, such as travel search engine Hopper, only offer in-app purchases for certain bookings, leaving desktop users baffled.

However, buying a flight with a phone is more convenient, it can be more expensive. Here’s why.

Beware of “drip pricing”

The rise of mobile shopping over the past decade has coincided with a sea change in how travel brands generate revenue. Additional fees, including baggage and seat selection fees on flights and cleaning and resort fees with accommodation, have become more common and expensive. US airlines collected $5.3 billion in baggage fees in 2021 alone, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

However, a 2021 study in the journal Marketing Science found that buyers tend to make suboptimal decisions under these so-called drip prices situations, that is, when hidden fees are acquired throughout the purchase process. Buyers tend to compare starting prices among competitors, which are low, rather than the highest final price.

Airlines charge fees for “premium” seats.


“When companies employ a trickle pricing strategy, the initial price is almost always lower than a competitor’s full price,” Shelle Santana, an 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., that price difference between companies narrows and sometimes reverses.”

Anyone who has bought a plane ticket on a budget airline like Spirit or Frontier knows exactly how this trickle-down pricing works out. However, what surprised Santana and his colleagues was how unwilling customers were to compare alternatives, even after the final price went up.

“Consumers perceive high search costs associated with starting their decision process over and think they will save less than they actually will,” Santana said.

Basically, buyers tend to reach the final payment screen and begrudgingly accept the fees that have been added. They assume it will be too complicated to start over and find another option, even though doing so would save them money.

Too many tabs, apps are needed

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

Consider the common decision of buying a flight with cash or reward miles. This involves several steps. First, you’ll need to search for award availability on the airline’s app or website, probably while switching to a personal calendar to check dates. It will then search a third-party flight tool, such as Google Flights, for estimated cash fares before determining the redemption value in miles versus dollars. Once you’ve determined the best option, you’ll need to navigate through the entire purchase process from both cash and award flight options to determine the true final price.

Perhaps some fleet-fingered Gen Zers can handle this task on a mobile device. But for many, it’s too daunting.

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In fact, a 2018 study in the Journal of Marketing tracked nearly one million sessions on a shopping website and found that shoppers who switched from a phone to a computer completed their transactions at a higher conversion rate. Interestingly, this higher conversion rate effect was even more true for higher priced or risky products.

So, even if you like searching for flights on your phone or feel overwhelmed by mobile-based options, follow the advice of experts who prefer to book travel, which can be expensive and risky, using a computer.

“I almost always buy travel on a desk,” Santana said. “I like to have multiple tabs open at once and switch between them to make sure I understand the price differences and drivers between companies.”


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