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

(Photo by andibreit on Pixabay)

Everyone makes mistakes. Even airlines. That’s why, 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?

There are many factors that can cause pricing errors, such as:

  • Human error - for example, when the person typing the price accidentally leaves out the last zero;
  • Technology issues - something might go wrong with the airline’s IT system and algorithm;
  • Fare class error - that’s when an OTA or an airline allows you to book a higher class fare (business class, for example) at the price of a lower one;
  • 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 - there could be communication problems between online travel agencies and airlines.

Sometimes, what you see might simply be a flash deal, and not a mistake.

Do airlines have to honour mistake fares?

In general, airlines tend to honour error fares. However, sometimes they might cancel your ticket. That’s why it’s best to wait at least 14 days after purchasing an error fare flight ticket before booking your (non-refundable) accommodation.

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.

Usually, there is no law that prevents airlines from canceling your ticket but this is troublesome and bad PR. That’s why they avoid doing it.

However, if your ticket ends up being cancelled, don’t worry - you’ll get a full refund. Then you’ll have the chance to book your trip again, but at its usual price. It’s not obligatory to do so. Besides, the airline cannot charge you more than you agreed to.

What to do if you find error fares?

  1. Hurry up and book if you want it - it could be gone soon, just in the span of a few hours.
  2. Check the airline’s cancellation policy just in case.
  3. DON’T call the airline or OTA - if you alert them, they will simply fix the 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 travellers who book the absurdly cheap flight 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 such mind-blowing travel deals. Here is what you can do:

  • Do 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 deals and/or join similar groups on social media.

To sum up

Now you know what an error fare flight is - basically, one that is so incredibly cheaper than usual that it leaves you with an open jaw. It’s a mistake you can take advantage of.

Unfortunately, error fares are less frequent than before. Still, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever see one. If you do, you know what to do.

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.

People also read:

Best tips for finding cheap flights

Flight booking: The smart way

Are the cheapest flights last minute?

Stay safe!