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In the Race for Cheap Airfare It’s You vs. the Machine

The New York Times – Travel providers now use software to re-price their offerings, sometimes dozens of times a day, putting travelers at a big disadvantage. “For business and leisure travelers, the result is a variation of the cat-and-mouse game, where travel companies are almost always the cat. Traditionally, hotels and airlines priced their offerings depending on peak demand periods, past sales data and the number of current reservations. Individual hotel properties could make changes if, for example, their hotel was emptier than usual for an upcoming date and a lower room price would spur demand. Now, changes in travel pricing are being made much more frequently. The practice, called “hyperdynamic pricing,” is poised for significant growth, said Angela Zutavern, a managing director at the technology consulting firm AlixPartners and the author of “The Mathematical Corporation: Where Machine Intelligence and Human Ingenuity Achieve the Impossible.” Hyperdynamic pricing factors in lots of data. Along with historical and seasonal information, the new A.I. systems scan the web for global news events, weather predictions, trending Google searches, social media posts, local event schedules and other factors that could affect demand, Ms. Zutavern said…”

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