Will Airlines Use Customization For Good Or Evil?

April 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

On the horizon for the airline industry: customizable fares.

A little further out on the horizon: angry passengers.

The airline industry is developing technology that will allow them to create a customized airplane fare for you — and only you — using personal information such as gender, marital status, and how often you fly. This information will enter an algorithm that will decide the fare amount you are required to pay. Amazon.com already uses a similar tool which suggests items for you to purchase based on your browsing and previous purchase history.

AA MD80

AA MD80 (Photo credit: Blue Pylons)

Advocates of this method argue that this change will give the travelers more control. In theory, travelers will be able to visit the website of a travel agency, set the desired travel locations and select the airline with the most affordable price. Travelers would also be able to check for other options, such as wireless Internet, and view any extra fees that may be attached to any trip.

The idea of a fare customization has been greeted with skepticism. Opponents of the proposed change argue this is nothing more than a marketing ploy. They worry that by giving away so much personal information, the airline industry could easily check on your credit history and income information. Instead of giving you the cheapest fare based on what you need, they could use that information to determine how much you could afford to pay. Individuals with more disposable income could be charged much more for a flight than the person seated next to them. And without knowing the formula used to set the price, there’s no true way to know who is getting charged fairly and who is being overcharged.

There is no need for immediate concern; the technology for customizable airfares is still in the development phases, years away from actually being implemented. However, the idea still raises a few eyebrows from those who are concerned with how their personal information is being used by major corporations. In the end, it is not the technology that we can call “good” or “evil,” but the intent behind the way it is used.

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