It’s not often that an error is something you want. When it comes to insanely cheap flights that are mispriced, that is a great error.
You see, there are upwards of 100,000 commercially operated flights per day. When you have that many flights zooming around, naturally there are going to be glitches with tickets. If you consider that a couple million passengers fly commercially everyday, it is no surprise Airlines screw things up (and their computers).
Most ticket prices are generated by computers that take a whole bunch of factors and plug it into an algorithm, then they spit out a price. With millions of tickets being booked everyday, we get glitches in the ticket systems known as “error fares”. Error fares, A.K.A mistake fares, are different from a sale fare because one price is intentional and the other is a mistake.
How much can I save with an error fare?
This would depend on how much a typical flight should cost, but you can easily save 80% off a normal ticket price. Here is a recent example posted by Secret Flying from Boston to Lisbon, Portugal. The exact flight on Google Flights was $1,098 where the error fare was only $207. That is a 82% discount!
Are there any risks with booking an error fare?
Life if full of risks! Just kidding.. But there are a few things you need to be aware of when booking an error or mistake fare.
First, make sure to wait 2-3 weeks after booking to make sure your fare is honored and they do not cancel your ticket. A safe bet is to wait until you receive a confirmation number, ticket number, and your credit card is charged. Make sure the charge on your credit card has posted and isn’t pending. If it has been about two weeks and all of those things have taken place, you should be in the clear. In the waiting period, DO NOT book rental cars or hotels unless they are 100% refundable. In the rare instance that an airline does cancel your mistake ticket, you will be refunded 100% with no penalty, so there really is no risk.
Second, be aware that airlines in the US are legally allowed to cancel your ticket if a pricing glitch occurred. You can thank the DOT for allowing airlines the option to void true mistake fares. A vast majority of the time the airlines will honor your error ticket since they don’t want to lose your future business. In they US they are required to file the details with the DOT if they cancel your ticket due to pricing mistakes.
I recently booked an error fare from New York to Lisbon, Portugal on Tap Airlines. This is an open jaw ticket meaning my return flight does not route me back to my origin. My return leg is from Lisbon to Sao Paulo, Brazil. The only thing I need to worry about is how to get back to the US from South America. Another option is that I can just miss my second leg and use points or cash to return from Europe. I paid only $215.60 USD per ticket! It has been about five weeks and TAP Airlines has honored the price. It appears that their ticketing computers did not add in the fuel surcharges at the time of booking so I basically just paid for the base fare and taxes/duties.
Another reason error pricing may occur is from a miscalculation in currency conversions. Anytime you are booking with an airline that is another country or you set your location to a foreign country, currency conversions are likely taking place behind the scenes. One of the main reasons the DOT added protection for the US airlines is because people were switching their country to something else like Finland and it was causing all sorts of pricing errors.
One more reason error pricing can occur is due to issues with a specific OTA (online travel agency), such as Priceline, Kayak, Orbitz, etc. If this type of issue takes place it will be localized meaning you will only find the error pricing within that OTA. If you book through Orbitz you will have a free 24 hour cancellation perk.
How do I get notified of error prices?
The best way to be notified of error fares is to subscribe to accounts that share or post them; Secret Flying, The Flight Deal, Fly4Free, and of course, yours truly. Be aware that these pricing errors can be removed/corrected within 15-30 minutes so you have to act very quickly! To get push notifications on your Facebook page, follow these instructions: