The little-known ‘dark patterns’ that are making you pay more for flights

HOLIDAYMAKERS may pay more for their flights due to little-known ‘dark patterns’ found on online booking sites.

Before Brits can use money-saving tricks to snag cheap flights, some online travel retailers are enticing customers to pay more.

Vacationers could pay more for their flights due to the lack of knowledge "dark patterns" can be found on online booking sites


Holidaymakers may pay more for their flights due to little-known ‘dark patterns’ found on online booking sitesPhoto credit: Getty

The term “dark patterns” refers to the design choices, nudges, and notifications of websites that companies use to help their customers make decisions.

According to Harry Brignull, the internet and technology expert who first coined the term, these “dark patterns” can either be subtle or “serve to lure the customer in,” as reported by BBC working life.

These “dark patterns” are often used by travel retailers on their online booking sites.

Internet shopper Paul Morris revealed holidaymakers could potentially end up paying more for their flights as a direct result.

He said: “Have you ever tried to book your flight and got a notification that 20 others are trying to book the same flight?”

This booking notification is actually a “dark pattern” as it is highly unlikely that 20 other customers would be viewing the same flight at the same time.

The notification aims to encourage customers to buy the flight at that very moment, instead of looking for other offers.

Paul also gave other examples, including the need to opt-out of travel insurance and other ancillary services at check-out.

The only way not to be fooled by these “dark patterns” on the internet is to know that they exist.

In an article in WiredBrignull added, “If you know what cognitive bias is and what tricks you can use to change your mind and convince you to do things, you’re less likely to be tricked by them.”

He also urged customers to publicly shame companies using these deceptive “dark patterns” on social media.

He added: “To complain loudly is a very good thing. So instead of complaining via email when nobody can see it, complain publicly and you’re more likely to get a quicker and more efficient response.”

In 2019, cybersecurity researcher Ophir Harpaz called an online travel retailer who had a nudge when booking her flight.

During the booking process, the notification read: “38 people are viewing this flight.”

Accordingly BBC working lifeOphir discovered that the website she searched was designed to claim that between 28 and 45 people saw a flight.

While the exact number was chosen at random, Ophir proved there was no truth to the number.

After her public tweet went viral, the travel retailer said he was taking steps to change his practices.

And Ophir Harpaz isn’t the only one questioning the “dark patterns” used on travel sites, according to consumer watchdog Which? False claims on travel websites have also been uncovered.

Rory Boland, the travel editor, said: “Despite the work of the Competition and Markets Authority.” [CMA] To clean up the industry, we know that not all hotel booking sites follow the rules.

“Until the whole industry complies with the rules put in place by the CMA and makes the necessary changes, UK holidaymakers are still at risk of being misled by unscrupulous practices.”

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Meanwhile, a travel expert revealed why you should book your package holiday at short notice.

And airline staff explained the best way to get cheap flights – even revealing that the day you book makes a difference.

This "dark patterns" are used by online retailers to help customers make decisions


These “dark patterns” are used by online retailers to help customers make decisionsPhoto credit: Getty

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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