I booked my first international trip in 2018 from the US to Oslo, Norway for $124 round-trip. Did you do a double-take on that number?
One afternoon at work I received a Facebook Messenger notification from TravelPirates, one of the several travel Facebook pages I follow. At the time, they regularly sent out notifications when unbelievable airfare deals became available. The automated message alerted me of an incredible error fare deal from Washington D.C. to Oslo, Norway on United Airlines during the summer.
I had been watching flight prices for a while at this point, desperately hoping for a great flight deal to pop up since studying abroad was something that was not attainable for me in college. This is the flight that started my love for travel and when I realized how affordable travel can be.
What is an error fare?
An error fare is like winning the lottery. It’s when flight pricing algorithms fall out of line or someone simply misses a digit when repricing a route.
How long are they available?
Error fares will last anywhere from 5 minutes to a couple of hours. The best rule of thumb is to book immediately because there is no way of knowing when the airline will correct the pricing.
Can the airline cancel my reservation?
Unfortunately, yes. The airline has no legal obligation to let you keep your error-fare reservation. BUT the good news is if the airline Is going to cancel your flight, they will let you know within 14 days of when you made the reservation. Once you make it past this 14-day window, it’s 99% likely that you’ve secured your reservation and can start planning your trip!
What should I do when I see an error fare?
Because error fares do not last long, you should book as soon as possible. The deal can be gone in as little as a few minutes.
What should I NOT do when I see an error fare?
Do not call the airline! Use the motto, “beg for forgiveness, not permission,” when booking airline deals.
Do not book any non-refundable reservations such as accommodations or excursions before the 14-day window is up. If the airline does not intend on honoring the error fare you booked, they will almost always cancel the reservation within 14 days.
How do I find an error fare?
Although error fares aren’t super common, they are out there. You most likely will not find an error fare for a specific destination you have in mind so tip #1 is to keep your options open!
You can increase your chances of finding an error fare by following travel websites that dedicate their time to finding good flight prices.
- TravelPirates (Where I found my Norway deal)
- Secret Flying
- Dollar Flight Club (Free and premium membership options)
- Scott’s Cheap Flights (Premium membership only)
TravelPirates and Secret Flying are free resources that share a handful of travel deals each day on Facebook and their websites, all from different departing airports. You do have to luck out with the departing airport because it won’t always have fares available for your home airport. In the case of my Norway error fare, I had enough Southwest Airlines credit to bring me round-trip from Orlando, FL to Washington D.C. for less than $50.
Dollar Flight Club has an email newsletter that notifies you a few times a week regarding flight deals from the airports you designate on their website. You can also log into your free account and view current flight deals available.
All of these resources share flight prices. You are not booking with these websites, rather you will be redirected to the website where the deal is available for purchase. The flights can be available directly on the airline’s website or through a third-party like CheapOair. As always, do your research to make sure third-party websites meet your needs before you book.
My Norway error fare was posted by TravelPirates.com but redirected me to a third-party called Gotogate. I had no issues with my reservation, however, COVID has caused many third-party websites to adopt less than stellar refund policies. Always check the airline’s website to see if the same price is available and if so, book directly. If not, do your due diligence to understand what exactly your rights are when it comes to booking through third-party websites.
It may seem too good to be true when you find your first error fare, but don’t let this fool you! Error fares are 100% legitimate and can make travel costs next to nothing. My final piece of advice when coming across an error fare is to go for it – Book the ticket, don’t wait on anyone else!
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