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Airlines Could Start Charging Based On Online Shopping Habits, Experts Say

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- New preferential pricing could take off at some major airlines, as providers are looking at ways to charge passengers based on their online shopping habits.

People who spend more may find themselves paying higher prices. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is preemptively asking the federal government to protect passengers from technology that uses personal information such as income to affect pricing.

Schumer says under the policy, two flyers sitting next to each other could be given two different prices based on their internet browsing history, online purchasing, or even income level.

Travel expert Peter Trabucco says the idea mixes big brother with big business.

"This is a dangerous precedent to do something like this," he told CBS2's Meg Baker. "You have to be careful how to go about doing that."

Aviation expert Brian Summers says most airlines have antiquated computer systems that may delay the preferential pricing from happening any time soon.

But airlines could target certain types of travelers.

"They do want to get to a world where if they know you're a business traveler and you're travelling to Europe and have to get there immediately, they may show you the most expensive ticket first," he said.

So what can you do if you're planning a trip? Experts say you should make sure to get rid of your cookies or use someone else's computer if you've made multiple online searches.

The proposed technology tracks customers' IP addresses and predicts how much they're willing to spend on a ticket. It may violate consumer protection laws, but there's no evidence airlines are using the information yet.

The Federal Trade Commission does not comment on the business practices of a specific company or a specific industry, with narrow exceptions.

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