Error Fares Are the Airline Fails You Actually Want to Happen

And these 5 tips will help you book one.

Airfares are relatively low these days, yet there’s no shortage of hungry travelers eager to book still cheaper plane tickets, making error fares so enticing. Often the result of a misplaced decimal point or a currency conversion gone wrong, the resulting published fares can be astonishingly low. Here’s what you need to know to find, book and fly to an incredible destination on an error fare. Let the airline’s mistake be your gain. 

1. Know where to start. 

Photo by: chainarong06 / Shutterstock

chainarong06 / Shutterstock

You could spend hours hunting down error fares on your own or you could start with the pros. Two go-to sites to bookmark are The Flight Deal and Secret Flying, both of which post up-to-the-minute fare deals, including mistake fares. Sign up for text alerts, add these sites to your RSS feeds and follow them on social media, particularly Facebook, where you’ll want to tweak your settings so the latest deal updates appear at the very top of your feed.  

2. Allow yourself to be spontaneous. 

Photo by: melissamn / Shutterstock

melissamn / Shutterstock

Error fares can pop up and be gone within minutes, or they may last a few hours, so when you see a good one, you’ve got to make a move. Book the fare if it’s a place you want to go, though if you want to take advantage of error fares, you really need to be open to flying anywhere. Cristal Dyer of Tofu Traveler recently snagged a mistake fare from Toronto to Paris for $135 round-trip. She admitted that had she hesitated, she would have missed out. #YOLO 

3. Consider alternate cities. 

Grand Place in Brussels


Grand Place in Brussels

Photo by: Leslie Banks / iStock / Getty Images PLus

Leslie Banks / iStock / Getty Images PLus

Many vacationers start with a destination and dates, then look for flights, but Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, considers this to be a good way to pay high prices. For this reason, flexibility is key, but so is an openness to alternate destinations, like those that may be a train or bus ride away from your intended destination. If Paris is on your mind, but an error fare just popped up for Brussels or Marseilles, think (quickly) about whether you can cheaply and conveniently get to Paris if you fly to that alternate city. 

4. Book through the airline’s website.

Photo by: CasimiroPT / Shutterstock

CasimiroPT / Shutterstock

When you see a sweet error fare pop up, go directly to the airline’s website to book your plane ticket. Do not use a booking site, like Hotwire or Expedia. When you book through the airline’s website, your ticket will be issued more quickly and there’s a greater chance that the airline will honor the mistake fare. Yes, some airlines can and will cancel a ticket booked using a mistake fare, but not always. 

5. Do nothing else until you’ve been ticketed.

Photo by: mtr / Shutterstock

mtr / Shutterstock

It can feel like an eternity waiting to receive your booking confirmation number from an airline, but you do not want to get carried away and start reserving hotel rooms and activities. Wait until the deal has expired (i.e., been discovered and fixed by the airline) and you’ve been ticketed before making any other travel plans. Once the fare is officially yours, start making all your additional plans to live it up while in your destination.

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