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The State of Airline Error Fares

It doesn’t happen enough, but when it does, you surely remember. You’ll see a tweet or a Facebook post or an email alert like this: Los Angeles to Stockholm $97 round-trip, San Francisco to Japan $444 round-trip or Chicago to Abu Dhabi $200 round-trip. All are big airline deals. And they all are errors or error fares!

These mistakes-known as airline error fares, airline pricing glitches, or just airline mistake fares can happen after an employee forgets to add taxes and fuel surcharges to the ticket price or it can be a website glitch publishing erroneously. Either way, most people move quickly to buy the ticket at that ridiculously low price.

Often, some airlines would honor the mistakes, no matter how low the price was. Mainly,  because the U.S. Department of Transportation had a ruling in place preventing airlines from raising ticket prices after passengers purchased them. But, less than a year ago, that changed. The DOT issued a new ruling allowing airlines to cancel those tickets if they can prove the price listed was a mistake, while refunding the customer the price paid.

Some airlines, like United and Delta, have made changes to try to prevent error fares altogether, but when they do make a mistake, they aren’t so quick to honor it. Still, U.S.-based and non-U.S.-based, airlines don’t have an official blanket policy covering each case. The DOT’s ruling gives the airlines much more latitude.

But, that doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. Certain websites and Twitter accounts seem to always spot a deal. Airfarewatchdog, Fare Compare, Secret Flying, The Flight Deal, and Airfare Spot are just a few websites and Twitter accounts that keep an eye out for really low fares. And, signing-up for forums and chat communities at FlyerTalk is also a tried and true formula. After a while, you’ll start to see the best and most consistent place to find these glitch fares.