Mistake airfares: All you need to know

August 21, 2018

Imagine this: You’re scrolling through Facebook or swiping through your Instagram stories and you see a friend bragging about how they recently booked a flight from Washington, D.C., to New Zealand for $327 (round trip!). That’s what you call a "mistake fare," which is simply when airlines publish incorrect ticket prices. Here’s all you need to know about them if you want to visit your dream destination without splurging on airfare:

Why do mistake fares happen?

Mistake fares happen because of human errors, computer system malfunctions, and currency-conversion mishaps. At the end of the day it comes down to the fact that airlines and Online Travel Agents (OTAs) operate on a very complex backend booking system, so errors occurRing now and again are inevitable.

Simple human error: It very well may be that a $1308 round trip flight from Boston to Cape Town was actually priced at $130 round trip. Someone omitted or added a number in error when entering a flight price, which can result in a significantly reduced ticket until the error is found by the airlines and corrected.

OTA glitches/omitting fuel surcharges & fees: Missing fuel surcharges are often why we see prices so reduced. Fuel surcharges are in place to prevent frequent-flyer programs from allowing people to book 100% free tickets using miles (as you still pay these additional fees). Every now and then though, these charges may be dropped by mistake. Fuel surcharges can make up hundreds of dollars for some airlines.

Currency conversion errors: When moving from currency to currency, things can get tricky. For example: a $4,000 United Airlines flight was available for around $79 recently. This specific mistake fare occurred due to a miscalculation between the Danish Kroner and British Pound.

How to find a mistake fare:

1. Keep an eye on Google Flights and Momondo daily to see if prices fluctuate significantly. If you’d rather not spend those hours, sign up for cheap flight finding services like Dollar Flight Club, who do all the searching for you and send deals right to your inbox.

2. Book the flight as soon as possible! Mistake Fares can last less than a few hours before the airline corrects the error. Wait a week or so before you book other travel plans like hotels and tourist activities until the airline confirms your ticket. More recently, airlines are no longer required to honor mistake fares like they were required to in the past. That being said, 90% of Mistake Fares do get honored. Airlines don’t want any bad PR by rescinding flights from customers.

3. Enjoy your trip and brag about it on Instagram.

A few bonus tips & tricks:

1. Have VPN access? Try to use your VPN to access the flight comparison sites and set your location to a country with a less valuable currency, as the flight tickets may be lower that way.

2. Use Google, Momondo, and Skiplagged to search and book. We recommend visiting at least 3 websites when you’re looking to find the absolute cheapest flight. These are our favorites and always bring back the cheapest fares. They also allow you to put into play these tips & tricks

3. Try to clear cookies after each search or search in “incognito mode,” which may bring back a slightly cheaper ticket.

4. The easiest way to find a great deal is to be quite flexible with your travel dates.

5. Don’t have time to do all of this? Dollar Flight Club can help.

Getting there

G Adventures books flights, too! Click here for details.

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