We all have heard of flight price errors and how some lucky travellers have managed to scoop ridiculously low-priced flights. We wonder how we can also lay our hands on the holy grail of cheap travelling and have access to this vital information.
There are people out there who are specialists on this business and are by default the people you should be looking up to should you wish to fly cheaply. However, there are some simple steps you can follow to help you find some decent good deals out there.
1. Start by using Skyscanner’s monthly search tool
Looking at a set of prices for a trip within a whole month will give you the insight you need to spot straight away when a figure may have been added wrongly to the data base you have in front of your eyes at that specific moment.
Mistakes with air fares happen due to human error, technology issues, miscalculations or certain costs such as fuel not included within the final price. Sometimes these mistakes benefit passengers and sometimes, they don’t.
On the example below (found on 20 February 2019) and looking at a flight from New York to London we see that prices during the month of March fluctuate between £122 being the cheapest and £177 being the most expensive one, for the departure from New York.
However, 31 March shows an abnormally high price of £1260. In my eyes, this is a price error due to someone adding an extra zero at the end of the figure of £126.
Having said that, a few minutes later, I checked the same flight, and this is what I found:
The price for departure flight from New York on 31 March had changed from £1260 to £138.
Skyscanner showed that there was a flight price error which worked against the customer this time. However, its powerful and flexible flight search tool month by month, can be used to spot prices which on the contrary show an unusually cheap fare.
2. Use the help of websites and apps specialized on finding flight price errors
One of the sites most widely used is www.secretflying.com . These blokes spend some decent time browsing the net and trying to find some crazy deals like the ones below
Although expired, those prices are hideously low. 108 euros for a return trip from New York to Thessaloniki is either a crazy bargain or a huge mistake.
On this website, there is for example, the following gem:
It clearly says Singapore to Gan Island (Maldives) and then Colombo (Sri Lanka) round trip for US$394. The link provided by this website to make the booking will take you to Skyscanner:
According to the screenshot above, details of the offer are clear: It is not just a connecting flight from Singapore to Gan Island Maldives through Colombo (Sri Lanka) but a full 4-day stay in Colombo and then 11 days in Maldives. It will need to be booked through Opodo.
Checking the same flight through Skyscanner we found similar results:
Prices are in sterling pounds. £298 = 342 euros (exchange rate from 21 February 2019).
The following option on Skyscanner after the £314 option costs twice as much and it is priced at £606.
Like these offers there are plenty more and they all get posted on a regular basis through the www.secretflying.com site and others such as www.airfarewatchdog.com . From this site, I find this offer to be incredibly good to be true:
Flying from several US cities to Reykjavik using Iceland’s prime budget airline Wow Air. On closer inspection, there are certain restrictions that need to be met should you wish to apply for the cheapest fare but still any price close to US$145 for a return flight to Iceland from the US is clearly a massive bargain.
Checking from the WowAir site itself, the price is the same.
Double checking these already low prices through Skyscanner we had these results:
Ebookers shows a cheaper option at £123. However, when we clicked on it, we are taken to the following screen:
The price has changed from £123 to £171.98 = US$224. This price is higher than the US$144.99 honoured by the WowAir airline.
The second cheapest option from Rumbo priced at £128 kept the same price:
£128 = US$166.9 (exchange rate from 21 February 2019). The offer from WowAir remains cheaper.
All in all, our learning from this should be that we need to use several platforms to double check information and validate it. Doing this will give us the certainty we are covering all possible angles and that in the end we are booking the cheapest fare available in the market.
3. Before booking make sure you read the small print
Using the same example from the Boston to Reykjavik flight, and after reading the small print, we can see the following:
Fares offered will only be granted if:
- You book within certain dates, in this case, offer was only valid during early March through the end of May
- Departure cities are only the WowAir’s four US gateways: Boston, Detroit, Washington and New York
- One-way fare is only US$45 but lowest priced return flights may be trickier to book
- Offer is valid while supplies last (1000 seats were advertised as the limit for this offer)
- All extras need to be declined: insurance, seat selection, meals and hold luggage
- Fare only include one small backpack or purse (see graph below to check dimensions and prices for personal item, carry-on and checked bag).
4. Don’t miss any offers: subscribe and follow and stay in the loop
The easiest way to stay on top of this game is by following and subscribing to all the experts, sites and apps providing free alerts when a price you are interested in has gone down or even better when they think there could be a mistake on air fares.
You can also follow Skyscanner by subscribing to their Instagram page: www.instagram.com/skyscanner
If you want to follow certain route, you can set price alerts using their subscribe alert form below (www.airfarewatchdog.com/blog/fare-deals) :
Otherwise subscribe to their general newsletter to receive information about travel money saving tips:
Other sites you can follow for notifications are:
www.dealray.com They offer one free month membership and from then onwards US$9.99 per month. They claim to have helped people to save an average of $428 per deal; 1.32M alerts sent to their customers and 1692 destinations with regular alerts.
www.hotukdeals.com (this is also a forum where people leave reviews so before you book the offer you can base your decision on other people’s past experiences with the same product)
You can also subscribe to budget airlines’ newsletters. Some of these low-cost air carriers do not show their prices in search engine tools because they believe their prices are already cheap enough for passengers to have to buy them from a third party.
According to Wikipedia, the top 25 low-cost carriers regarding the number of passengers transported in a year (numbers shown in millions) are:
If you lived in the USA, following Southwest, JetBlue and Spirit Airlines in all their social media platforms plus subscribing to their e-news letter can secure you great deals.
For all the Brits and people from Europe, choices are also plentiful but following Ryanair and Easyjet for sure will give you the chance to find amazing prices to fly anywhere within the Old continent. There is an option for everyone, no matter where you live.
5. Be aware that mistakes do not last long, so book QUICK!
As I have shown you before in point 1, mistakes happen but they don’t hang around for too long. If you are lucky enough to spot one and you have the flexibility to travel on the dates when the trip is advertised for, book quick. Most likely, the same fare won’t be there for more than 24 hours. In the example I mentioned, the mistake, even though was not in favour of the passengers, was not there for more than 5 minutes.
If you are unsure you will be able to travel on the dates for the flight with the fare error, but you really like the destination and need some time to think about it or perhaps check with the other half, book it anyway! In the USA you can book a flight and cancel it within the next 24 hours and the airline will have to refund you the full amount no matter what the reasons for your cancellation were.
6. Airlines could cancel your reservation if they spot the mistake on time
Before you make any further plans after you have purchased a flight with a potential fare error, be patient. Give yourself some time and wait for the airline confirmation or even better wait until you receive the electronic ticket. If you have received one, it is likely the fare will be honoured by the airline and you will have gotten away with murder.
On the contrary, if you have purchased the flight with a price error, the airline can cancel the reservation at any time. You will not lose your money as the airline is contracted to refund the amount you had paid, and they will give you the chance to buy the same flight but with the real price. There is no obligation from your side to do so.
7. If you find a fare error, don’t make a big fuss out of it!
Chances are that if you start telling everyone within your mailing list and Whatsapp, the airline will notice an anomaly on the number of people buying a specific flight, the fare error will be spotted quicker and taken off from the search engines.
Be wise, keep it quiet, book ASAP and do not call the airline asking if the price is correct. Airlines are not obliged to honour all the flights with price errors out there but in most of the cases they prefer to do so and eliminate any possibility to receive bad press for some few hundreds of dollars.
If your booking gets cancelled, you can’t be asked to pay the full amount by the airline. It is very unlikely that the airline, even if you complained, will honour the flight with the price error. You are entitled to complain to the relevant authorities or to the airline itself and depending on the level of customer services given by this airline, you may be given compensation for the impasse such as reward miles or a money voucher which you can only use to buy flights from the same carrier.
8. Book directly with the airline
If you book through a third party, you are giving to the airline ample time to spot the price error and for this to be taken off the search engines. Remember that when you book through Opodo and other meta search engines, they will have to request the purchase of your ticket to be approved by the airline first and then after that you will get the confirmation for the flight. If you bought directly from the airline, this waiting game will not happen.
On the other hand, if you booked directly with the airline you have those 24-hour grace period in which you are entitled (if living within the USA) to cancel your flight and to receive 100% refund for your paid money.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post about airfare errors and how to find them. It will be awesome to hear about your recent and past experiences with this fascinating topic. Use the box below to do so and once again, please don’t forget to share it with your friends through any of the social media links displayed.