Error fares: What are they and how to find them?

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Everyone makes mistakes. Even airlines. So if you’re lucky, you can come upon an amazing error fare flight.

In this article, we will discuss what error fares are, how to find them and whether to book them.

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What are error fares?

Various factors can cause pricing errors:

  • Human error - for example, when the person typing the price accidentally leaves out the last zero;
  • Technology issues - the airline’s IT system might leave the fuel surcharges or other fees out;
  • Fare class error - an online travel agency (OTA) or an airline allows you to book a higher class fare at the price of a lower one (for instance, you get to fly business class at the price of economy class);
  • Currency conversion error - fares or taxes could be attached to the wrong currency, lowering the fare sold, or the calculation from one conversion to another could simply be wrong;
  • Poor communication - miscommunication between OTAs and airlines could lead to mistakes in flight pricing.

However, not every ridiculously cheap flight fare is due to an error. Sometimes, it might simply be a flash deal.


Do airlines have to honour mistake fares?

In general, airlines tend to honour error fares. Nevertheless, there is no law that prevents them from cancelling your ticket, so we advise you to wait at least 14 days before booking your (non-refundable) accommodation. The cancellation usually happens within 72 hours though.

If your ticket gets cancelled, don’t worry - you’ll get a full refund to your credit card/original payment method and might even get extra travel credit as an apology for the inconvenience.

Note that even if you receive a confirmation email after your purchase, that doesn’t guarantee anything. But if you also get an electronic flight ticket, it’s very likely you’ll get away with it.


What to do if you find error fares?

  1. Hurry up and book if you want it - it could be gone in a matter of hours.
  2. Find the airline's cancellation policy as a precaution.
  3. DON’T call the airline or OTA - if you alert them, they will simply fix the pricing mistake and won’t let you book an error fare flight.
  4. Wait a couple of weeks before booking an accommodation or anything else that’s non-refundable because it’s possible that your ticket gets cancelled.

If you want to improve your odds of having an error fare honoured, book directly via an airline’s website, when possible. Moreover, if the fare is somewhat “reasonable”, it’s more likely that the airline will go with it.

It’s also best not to share your knowledge with other people, at least until you have safely booked your amazing flight deal. Otherwise, the airline might be notified more quickly or be overwhelmed by the number of flights booked at absurdly cheap prices and decide to cancel all tickets.


How to search for error fare flights?

It’s unlikely you will find mistake fares by chance. You need to actively search for the cheapest flights. Here is what you can do:

  • Conduct a wide search for tickets for specific routes on sites like Google Flights or Skyscanner. If you select an entire month for your departure date, you could easily spot any unusual price variation.
  • Opt in for price drops and error fare alerts from flight search engines such as Airfare Watchdog and Secret Flying.
  • Become a member of Scott’s Cheap Flights.
  • Read discussion forums where members share when they find good travel deals and/or join similar groups on social media.

Meanwhile, if there has been a problem with your flights in the past 3 years, check your flight delay compensation. We will help you claim it.



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Stay safe!