If you've ever wondered how people manage to score insanely cheap flights when you're still getting the same old fares from your travel agent then hopefully this article will enlighten you to the world of error fares or mistake fares, and how easy they are to find and purchase. This is the story of my latest error fare flight that is coming up in November and how to book one for yourself.
My Latest Error Fare
At the start of September I was exploring Baltimore for the first time and visiting the Museum of Art. After a couple hours of art appreciation I decided to take advantage of their wifi to post some of my day so far on my Instagram Stories when an error fare alert popped up that there was a new error fare from Toronto, where I am currently based, to Paris for only $169 CAD round trip ($135 USD). A flight like that is usually closer to $700 at its cheapest.
I knew I would have very little time to decide so I quickly checked my calendar, made sure I was going to be in Toronto when the deal was on, chose some dates that looked okay and booked. This took less than 10 minutes. This error fare flight lasted just over an hour and I got in about half way through. If I had taken any longer I would have missed out.
I’m often asked how I can afford to travel as much as I do and error fares are one of the main reasons why. These insanely cheap flights make travel affordable since airfare and accommodation are usually the biggest expenses when you travel.It helps that I’m flexible but I believe that if you’re prepared anyone can take advantage of a fare like this one. Here’s some information on how to book your very own error fare and you might also get to experience world famous landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower sooner than you think!
What is an error fare?
An error fare or mistake fare is a pricing mistake by the airline or travel agency. It could be a technical issue or come down to something as simple as someone forgetting a zero. It’s basically a fare that was never meant to be but someone stumbles upon it and thanks to the glory of the internet, we all get to find out about it before it gets fixed.
There are error fares for one way flights, return flights and even business and first class flights. Sometimes there are even error fares for hotels. I’ve gone into more details before about how to find great deals for your next vacation, including which sites usually post error fares.
I often get asked if I can find an error fare to a particular destination but that’s not how this works. Error fares pop up for random destinations and most of the time it’s not something that you can use. Namibia to The Seychelles was a recent one, if only I lived near Namibia…
When the stars align, though, and it’s a place that you actually want to go to AND the flight leaves from your home city AND the dates fit in with your schedule, it’s your duty to book that ish.
How to Book An Error Fare
Firstly set up an error fare alert so that when an error fare flight is discovered, you find out ASAP. Error fares can last 20 minutes or on rare occasions a whole day but you never know before hand how much time you’ll have.
Travel Pirates offers a Facebook Message option that can alert you when there are really good deals. Secret Flying, Scott’s Cheap Fares and Fly 4 Free all have Facebook and Twitter pages that will be updated as soon as they discover a deal. You can turn on notifications but this will give you ALL of their deals, not just error fares.
My personal preference is to set up an IFTTT error fare alert. IFTTT (If This Then That) is a website that connects all the websites and apps that you use with a trigger system to perform certain actions on your behalf. In this instance, if Secret Flying sends a tweet that uses the phrase “error fare” then I get a notification on my phone. I also have one set up just for my home city.
This is the exact alert that I use on IFTTT: https://ifttt.com/applets/37951669d-error-fare-from-secretflying
Just follow the instructions on the IFTTT website and you’ll be all set up ready to get an error fare alert when the next error fare flight is found.
Now you want to make sure you’re as clear as possible about when you’re available to take a vacation. Error fares are all about flexibility. Are you willing to go on your own or do you need to have a friend or family with you? If the latter is the case then make a rough plan so if an error fare does come up and they’re not contactable, you’re confident enough to book on their behalf.
Secret Flying gives you some sample dates that they were able to find with the error fare price but you can allow a little bit of time to experiment for dates that work better for you. Not too much time though!
Don’t hesitate! There was an error fare recently to Lima, Peru and it lasted half an hour. I missed out by minutes! The reason why it took me so long was I just wasn’t sure I wanted to go to Peru. I’d already been twice before but I knew there were a lot of places that I had missed out on. I messaged friends and asked their opinion and by the time I made up my mind it was too late.
Once you’ve booked
Don’t book anything else. Don't pay for any hotels or tours for at least a couple of days. An error fare flight is never guaranteed and some airlines are notorious for not honouring the fares. Once you’ve received an e-ticket, then you’re in and shouldn’t need to worry.
Wait for 48 hours and there will either be an announcement by the airline or the booking agent or you will get contacted to be advised that you got a refund. The best thing about booking an error fare is that if it doesn’t happen then you get a full refund so there’s no harm.
The other important thing is to not contact the airline or the travel agency. Sometimes people freak out about whether the fare is real or if they’re going to get their money back and will get in touch with the airline to ask questions. This is just ruining it for everyone else and also reducing the chances that you will get an e-ticket in time. If the deal gets shut down in between you booking the ticket and them sending you an e-ticket then you’re also out of luck.
So that’s it! Sounds easy and it is once you’ve got everything prepared for your chance to book your very own error fare. Good luck and come back and let me know what insanely cheap flights you manage to score!