What are Browser Cookies?

Cookies are tiny data files produced by a website and stored in your web browser for tracking purposes.

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What does it mean when a site uses cookies?

If you’ve used the internet recently, you’ve probably noticed pop-ups or banners asking you to consent to a particular site’s use of cookies

Websites use cookies to track what sites your browser has visited so that they can remember your preferences each time you return. Cookies can keep tabs on everything from language, currency, and layout choices to previous search queries and items stored in a shopping cart.

What are cookies in your browser?

When you accept a website’s cookies, your browser stores the transmitted information in a designated directory as a cookie.txt file. Every time you open a new page on that website, your browser retransmits that file back to the website’s server, creating a history. The file keeps a running list of pages visited as well as information you’ve entered like your name and address and recent search terms.

Are cookies on a website bad?

Websites have always been able to track user activity on their site, but cookies make the process easier. Cookies are designed to streamline your experience by predicting your future needs based on your previous activity.

If you’re worried about security, rest assured that only the website responsible for creating a cookie file can access that file, meaning there’s no way for your social media page to view your online banking information even though both sites use cookies. Similarly, cookies do not automatically grant websites access to your hard drive or anything saved to a cloud-based storage system. Cookies cannot generate their own code or deliver viruses.

Cookies employed by advertising companies generally get the most negative buzz, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily bad, they’re just more beneficial to the company than they are to the consumer. These third-party cookies are installed by companies who advertise products on multiple websites in the form of banner ads or similarly integrated posts. They track your browsing habits across the different sites they work with in order to tailor their offerings to your preferences. That’s why you might notice that after you do some online shopping at the Gap, you keep seeing Gap ads all over the internet.

Do browser cookies increase flight prices?

This is a hotly debated issue and one that’s given rise to plenty of misinformation and myths. The short answer is no, there is zero evidence that cookies increase flight prices and searching for flights incognito will not help you find cheaper prices. The Going team performs thousands of flight searches each day and no matter how many times we conduct the same searches, cookies don’t affect the outcome.

Do airlines track IP addresses?

Yes, airline websites will often access an IP address (the string of numbers that identifies a computer’s location and connection to the web) in order to provide accurate location-related information like language, proper currency, and relevant deals.

Because airlines are able to adjust their prices in accordance with a specific market’s makeup (business vs. leisure travelers, relative wealth), some believe that changing your IP address using a VPN (Virtual Private Network, a software program that essentially routes a computer’s internet connection through a different location) will unlock cheaper fares. But, as this 2019 New York Times investigation shows, results can vary depending on the airline, route, and the countries involved.

Should I remove cookies?

If you’re concerned about websites tracking your online activity, you can easily delete cookies stored in your browser. However, doing this won’t make a difference when it comes to finding cheap flight deals, and searching for flights incognito won't return different prices.

Is it OK to delete all cookies?

By going into your browser’s directory, most browsers allow you to either delete individual cookies from specific websites or delete all stored cookies at once. Both options are safe ways to terminate file sharing between your browser and the websites you visit.

Should you clear browsing history?

Wiping your browser’s history log clean is a harmless procedure, but doing so will not affect your flight search results. Nor will searching for flights in incognito mode.

Does clearing cookies remove passwords?

Deleting cookies will automatically log you out of websites that normally keep you logged in, so you’ll have to re-enter your information the next time you visit. Clearing cookies does not delete usernames and passwords stored in your actual browser, though, as those are supplied by your browser profile and aren’t tracked by external websites.

How do you clear cookies on your computer?

Instructions for clearing cookies depend on which browser you’re using.

Clearing cookies in Google Chrome

Click the menu button (the three vertical dots in the top right corner) and select Settings to open the Settings page. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Advanced. To delete all cookies at once,  hit Clear Browsing Data under Privacy and Security. Under Basic, check the box next to Cookies and other data and confirm by clicking the Clear Data button.

To delete individual cookies, select Content Settings under Privacy and Security. Click Cookies, then select See All Cookies and Site Data. From there, click the trash can icon to the right of each website listing to delete that website’s cookies. For more information, visit Google’s support page.

Clearing cookies in Apple Safari

In the Safari app, choose Safari → Settings, then click the Privacy tab and hit the Details button. Delete individual cookies by selecting each one and clicking Remove or delete all of them at once by clicking Remove All. For more information, visit Apple's support page.

Clearing cookies in Microsoft Internet Explorer

Click the gear icon in the toolbar and select Internet Options from the menu. Under the General tab, find Browsing History and click the Delete Browsing History button. Check the items you want to clear like Cookies and website data, Passwords, Form data, or others, and hit Delete. For more information, visit Microsoft’s support page.

Clearing cookies in Microsoft Edge

Click the Hub button (the three dots in the top right corner), then select Settings. Find Clear Browsing Data and then select Choose What to Clear. Check the box next to the items you want to delete, namely Cookies and saved website data, and click Clear. For more information, visit Microsoft's support page.

Clearing cookies in Firefox

Click the three-lined menu button in the top right corner, then navigate to Options → Privacy & Security → Clear Data. Check the box next to Cookies and Site Data and hit the Clear button to delete all cookies. For more information, including multiple ways to delete individual site cookies, visit Mozilla’s support page.

How do you search incognito?

In incognito or private mode, browser history, search history, cookies, and other temporary files are not recorded or logged for future use. All of this information will vanish as soon as you close the window. Find your browser below to learn how to access this feature.

Searching incognito in Google Chrome

Click the menu button (the three vertical dots in the top right corner) and select New Incognito Window to open a private browsing window. When you’re in incognito, the browser window will appear dark grey and you’ll notice an icon of a cartoon disguise in the top right corner.

Searching incognito in Apple Safari

Select File from the top toolbar and click New Private Window to open a private browsing window. The address bar will appear dark grey and collapsible banner at the top will alert you that private browsing has been enabled.

Searching incognito in Microsoft Internet Explorer

Click the gear icon in the toolbar, scroll down to Safety and select InPrivate Browsing in the drop-down menu to open the private browsing window. When browsing privately, the InPrivate logo will appear on the left side of the address bar.

Searching incognito in Microsoft Edge

Click the Hub button (the three dots in the top right corner) and select New InPrivate window from the drop-down menu to open a private browsing window. When browsing privately, you’ll notice the InPrivate label at the top left corner of the window.

Searching incognito in Firefox

Click the three-lined menu button in the top right corner, then click New Private Window to open a private browsing window. When browsing privately, a purple mask icon will appear in the top right corner of the window.

How do I clear cookies for flight searches?

Again, there is no evidence to suggest that airlines or other flight booking sites use cookies to surface more expensive flight options after repeated searches. If you want to see for yourself, clear your cookies using the directions above each time after searching for the same set of flights, or run the same search simultaneously in a cookie-enabled browsing window and an incognito or private browsing window. You can also try downloading and installing a VPN if you want to see how rerouting your IP address through a different location impacts your flight search.

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Last updated Jan 11, 2024