The secret to finding and booking cheap flights with error fares

Having a hard time finding cheap flights? Well, one thing is certain, searching for flight deals takes a lot of patience and a bit of luck. However, what if I told you that last week I found round-trip tickets to Europe (from New York City) for $287 USD, would you believe me? Well, fares like this exist! In addition to being flexible, you can find ultra-low fares to destinations around the world with error fares.

How To Take Advantage of Error Fares

(or Mistake Fares)

What is an error fare?

An error fare or a mistake fare is a pricing mistake by an airline or a third-party website like Expedia. Error fares can also apply to hotel and resort stays.

Error fares are a result of human error (fat fingers), conversion rate mix-ups, fuel dumps, and system glitches.

While airlines may throw their fists in the air in anguish, this is one way to book ridiculously cheap flights. 

How to finding error fares?

The best way to find error fares is by following sites like Secret Flying and The Flight Deal but not every deal is an error fare. Similar to fare sales, when there’s an error fare, they’ll let you know the price, cities to/from and the dates.

I recommend signing up for their daily newsletters as well as staying connected on Twitter and Facebook. Thrifty Traveler Premium and Scott’s Cheap Flights also alert their paid subscribers of error fares.

Last week while checking Secret Flying, I saw an amazing deal to Portugal and Spain. However, after comparing prices, looking for dates and calling up friends, you guessed it, the cheapest seats to Barcelona and Madrid were sold out. Every time I refreshed the page, prices soared higher and higher. Luckily I managed to book round-trip tickets to Lisbon, Portugal for $333 USD.

This error fare saved me $627 USD.

Update November 2017: I recently found an error fare from New York City to Bangkok, Thailand via Ethiopian Airlines for $304 USD. Unfortunately, Ethiopian Airlines later canceled my flight but they gave me a full refund.

Related: 5 Winter Destinations To Visit With Cheap Flights

What’s the catch?

Error fares are unpredictable and can disappear at any time. They are subject to availability and can last a few minutes or a few hours. This is why you should book your tickets as soon as possible to avoid missing the deal. 

What about if you’re unsure if you can travel those dates?

Don’t worry, most U.S. airlines allow up to 24 hours to cancel your flight, penalty free. You have nothing to lose! 

Nevertheless, always read the fine print and double-check the airline cancellation policy. 

Cancelled Flights

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but airlines do not have to honor error fares but they usually do to keep their customers happy.

Generally, airlines cancel flights via email within 3 days to 2 weeks of booking.

What if my booking gets canceled? 

You’ll get a full refund if the airline cancels your flight. 

Helpful tip: Book error fares with a credit card so it’s easier to get your money back.

Related: The Cheapest Flights Ever Booked With Points and Miles

Should I confirm error fares with the airline?


Do the travel community a favor and do not call the airline. If you absolutely have to call, call after you’ve received your confirmation email. If you have any questions, contact Secret Flying or The Flight Deal directly for guidance. They update their sites regularly.

In summary:

    • Book error fares as soon as possible
    • Do not contact the airline or booking website
    • Do not book non-refundable lodging and car rentals right away

Final Thoughts

Overall, when it comes to error fares, my biggest takeaway is to figure things out fast and book your flight as soon as possible. Get the confirmation email and then wait two to three weeks before making any non-refundable travel plans.

Although there’s some risk booking an error fare, the potential savings are totally worth it!

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