Imagine the joy recently when those that ordinarily spend a lot of time criticising Ryanair apparently discovered a loophole in its system to get cheaper flights.
All of sudden, pay-to-pee, standing room-only etc was forgiven and Ryanair could be gamed by simply deleting cookies after a search was carried out, apparently giving users a fare costing less than the previous result.
This rumour - spread, inevitably, by Twitter - gained even more acceptance from those that love to hate Ryanair after many had suggested that prices were going up if a user takes a break between searches.
When asked about this a few weeks ago, in typical fashion, a Ryanair official had this to say:
"This is complete rubbish, but then there are a lot of twits on Twitter."
Not content with letting such a wild and fascinating rumour going unchecked, flight metasearch widget provider InvisibleHand [TLabs Showcase - InvisibleHand] decided to investigate.
Over the course of two days the company search 52 routes in two different browsers.
On the first day and using Firefox, IH ran 52 Ryanair flight searches on randomly selected routes, including return and one-way trips, logging the prices throughout.
The following day, using Firefox it ran the same 52 searches and noted down the prices. However, it also carried out identical searches using Google Chrome – simultaneously with the Firefox searches. All cookies were cleared from Chrome after every search. Cookies were not cleared from Firefox at any point during the experiment.
The company says:
"If the price manipulation allegations were true, we would have expected to see price discrepancies in the results between Firefox and Chrome on day two. What we actually saw were exactly the same prices on both browsers."
IH says the test is obviously not definite proof of a wider issue, but although Ryanair - like other airlines - changes its prices constantly using a sophisticated pricing system, "manipulation via browser cookies doesn't appear to be one of them".
In short, IH claims: it's an urban myth.
NB: Raw data from the test is available here.