You’re browsing Facebook for 5 minutes at lunch time and you see a post talking about some stupidly low ‘error fares’ to somewhere on your bucket list. The fares are so low that they can’t possibly be real. So you do a quick search online and you find one. It’s real, it’s there waiting for you. Do you book it or do you hesitate, thinking about what happens if it gets cancelled?
You might have heard about error fares in the news. There was a British Airways fare to Tel Aviv that received a lot of coverage last year and there have been many error fares that didn’t make the headlines but circulated widely on social media.
But do you know what an error fare is and the things you need to look out for before and after you book one?
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know to confidently take advantage of an error fare and avoid the potential pitfalls that can cost you money.
1. What are Error Fares?
Error fares are air fares that an airline or travel agency sells at a very low price, much lower than intended.
There are a few ways error fares can come about. Usually they’re the result of a mistake by the airline, a miscommunication between travel agencies and airlines or when the complex rules for calculating an air fare go wrong.
These kinds of mistakes aren’t very common and airlines are good at spotting them before they go on sale, but they still do happen.
2. How To Find Error Fares
Error fares can be hard to find as they only come to light when someone searches for a flight and sees the error fare. So, unless you’re extremely lucky, or you’re searching for air fares all day, you’re unlikely to find one by yourself.
As I search for air fares for my fare alerts and my customers every day, I can quickly spot error fares and let you know about them. As soon as I find an error fare I send the details to my email subscribers, so make sure you’ve signed up for my emails here to receive my error fare alerts.
3. Act Fast
These fares don’t last long. Airlines will stop selling an error fare as soon as they find out about it. This means an error fare will usually only be available for a few hours. The fare can be taken off sale at any moment so you need to act fast.
If the fare is extremely cheap you might want to book it first and think about getting time off work etc. afterwards. The worst that could happen is that you can’t go and you lose the money you spent on the fare.
Some airlines, especially North American airlines, offer free cancellation for all their fares for 24 hours after booking. This free cancellation period is shown in the booking process. For flights where the airline offers free cancellation, book first and think later.
If there’s no free cancellation period and the fare is more money than you’re prepared to lose you can’t hang around. Speak to whomever you need to and make a decision as quickly as possible.
4. Book Directly with the Airline if Possible
If you have a choice of booking an error fare directly with the airline or with an online travel agency then I recommend you book with the airline. The airline will issue your ticket almost immediately and if they decide to cancel the ticket you’ll be dealing directly with them, rather than a third party.
5. NEVER Speak to the Airline About an Error Fare
This is important. DO NOT SPEAK TO THE AIRLINE ABOUT AN ERROR FARE.
Don’t ask the airline if the error fare is valid, don’t try to book over the phone or ask if your tickets have been issued. If you do this you’ll alert the airline to the error fare. They’ll not let you book it and they will stop any more sales of the fare straight away.
6. Wait After Booking an Error Fare
If the airline finds out about the error fare, they will either decide to honour the tickets or cancel them. The airline or online travel agency will usually get in touch with you within a few days if they’re going to cancel. You’ll get a full refund of the fare but no compensation for any other travel arrangements you’ve already made.
For this reason, I very strongly recommend that you don’t book any other parts of your trip initially. Wait until at least one week after you’ve received your e-ticket number (this isn’t your booking reference – you need the actual ticket number) before you book things like hotels or car hire that can’t be cancelled free of charge.
A week after you’ve received your e-ticket it’s pretty safe to assume that the airline won’t cancel your ticket and you should be able to make other arrangements for your trip.
Error fares happen when an airline or online travel agency makes a pricing mistake. They can be priced hundreds of pounds less than the usual air fare.
Finding error fares can be difficult as they only last a few hours before the airline shuts them down. I recommend you subscribe to my air fare email alerts to have the best chance of seeing and booking an error fare.
It’s safe to book an error fare but remember the airline may cancel your tickets and refund your money.
Next time you see an error fare follow the steps above and you could be jetting off to one of your dream destinations for a lot less than you ever thought possible.
Have you booked an error fare? What was your experience? Share it in the comments below, we’d love to hear about it.