Advertiser Disclosure

Mistake Fares

How to Find Mistake Fares, Book Them & Save Hundreds (Or Thousands!)

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. For more information check out our Advertising Disclosure.

Picture this: After seeing flight prices to Europe this summer north of $1,000, you hear whispers (or maybe catch a glimpse of an alert from your favorite flight deal service) of flights to Dublin (DUB) for under $150 … roundtrip. No way. It couldn't be that cheap, right?

It's real. Look at this. 


mistake fare


Welcome to the wild, thrilling world of mistake fares: the undisputed gold standard of flight deals.

Want to save hundreds, if not thousands, on your plane ticket? Looking to fly business class without paying a fortune? It's a mistake fare you're looking for, the ridiculously cheap fares that pop up when – you guessed it – an airline mistakenly sells a fare for cheap.

These kind of errors are rare and unpredictable: You never know when the next one will appear. Over the last several years, we've found $63 roundtrip fares to Santiago de Chile (SCL), $229 flights to Paris or $238 to Croatia and back, and even a business class fare to Asia and back for under $700 … when it should have cost $7,000. But then you can go months, even a year, without even a whiff of another error. 

It happened again this week.

Roundtrip fares to Dublin that should have been sold for $900 or more were bookable for just $148 or $200 from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) and Chicago-O'Hare (ORD), respectively. This unreal deal disappeared within a matter of hours, but not before hundreds of Thrifty Traveler Premium members booked dirt-cheap trips to Ireland this summer or fall.


dublin mistake fare


Get an instant alert for the next mistake fare with Thrifty Traveler Premium!

So what's really behind these ultra-cheap flights? How rare are they? And how can you get in on the next one? Read on.


What is a Mistake Fare?

These fares are just what they sound like. For one reason or another, airlines sell tickets at a cheaper price than they intended. If you see a plane ticket that looks too good to be true, it could be a mistake fare.

Maybe it's the result of an error in converting different currencies. The airline might have accidentally left an important surcharge off the final ticket price. Sometimes, it's as simple as an employee hitting the wrong number or missing a zero as they enter a fare.


vietnam mistake fare


Mistake fares are also one of the few ways to snag a barnburner deal on business or first class plane tickets, like the mistake fare to fly Cathay Pacific First Class for less than $1,000 we found a few years ago. Competition for top-dollar customers is so tight and so motivated by big money, airlines rarely sell those seats at huge discounts.

In business class or economy, airlines have gotten better and better at detecting their mistakes quickly – or catching them before they're published. What was once a steady stream of two or three mistake fares a year has slowed to a trickle. 

But they still happen. 


How Do You Find Mistake Fares?

By their very nature, mistake fares are unpredictable. You could scour the internet for hours on end every day all year and not find one of these insanely cheap mistake fares.

Let us do the work for you. Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers get the first scoop on these mistake fares. We send out alerts for mistake fares within minutes of finding them and round up other mistake fares making the rounds on the internet.

Thrifty Traveler Premium members got the first crack at booking that $13,500 first-class ticket from Vietnam to the U.S. and back for under $1,000 a few years ago. They also got a chance to book a trip from the U.S. to Chile for just $200 – normally a $1,000-plus ticket.


scl mistake


But just when we thought we'd seen the greatest Chile fare ever, our team uncovered one of the best mistake fares we've ever seen in 2020.


Cheap Flight to Santiago by Mistake Fare


No Photoshop, we swear! This was an actual fare that Delta published and that we booked in 2020! Fly to Chile and back, nonstop on Delta, for $63. While nonstops were available from Atlanta (ATL), you could hop on flights down to Chile from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) for $186 roundtrip or get there and back from Orlando (MCO) for $147 along with sub-$300 fares from dozens of U.S. cities.

At the same time, we also unearthed flights to Lima, Peru starting at just $111 roundtrip, also on Delta. It was a whirlwind couple of days at Thrifty Traveler Premium, but our subscribers were rewarded for it.


How Do I Book Mistake Fares?

One word: Quickly. 

There's no telling how long a mistakenly discounted fare will be on sale before it's pulled. It varies by how good the deal is – and how long the airline takes to catch its mistake. If you want to get the best deal, act fast!

We've seen some of the best mistake fares disappear within minutes of going on sale. A mistake fare from Miami (MIA) to Fortaleza, Brazil (FOR) for an astounding $132 disappeared less than 30 minutes after we first saw it. Others have lasted close to an entire day or longer. Long story short, don't count on that insane flight deal sticking around for long.

When it comes to mistake fares, it's imperative to act fast. For example, Thrifty Traveler Premium members were treated to this mistake fare to fly in lie-flat business class seats to London-Heathrow (LHR) for about $900 roundtrip! That's more than $2,000 off the usual price, so go figure it only lasted an hour or two!


Mistake fare JFK-LHR


So if you see a great mistake fare here or elsewhere on the internet, don't go back and forth with your travel companion or boss about whether or not you can take the trip. Book now and ask questions later. If it turns out you can't use the cheap ticket you just bought, you have 24 hours to cancel it for a full refund. The U.S. government requires this refund policy for any flight that touches U.S. soil, so use it.

But there's also a chance the airline won't even honor the fare (more on this in a bit). So just as important as booking the fare fast is to not book anything else. Don't pay for any nonrefundable hotels, tours, excursions, rental cars, or other pieces of your vacation until you know your ticket is safe. Odds are, you won't get anything official from the airline unless your ticket is canceled. So if it's still in your account after two weeks and you haven't heard from the airline that they're invalidating your flight, you're probably safe to plan the rest of your trip.

It may seem counterintuitive, but after buying your ticket on impulse, be patient. 


Will the Airline Honor These Fares?

This is the million-dollar question – or, perhaps more accurately, the $148 question.

Unfortunately, it's a mixed bag. The U.S. government no longer requires airlines to honor the mistake tickets they sell if they can prove the pricing was offered due to an error. Airlines can cancel the fare so long as they fully refund the cost of the ticket.

Ultimately, it's largely the airline's choice whether to honor these fares. And that's never a sure thing. The best mistake fares we've seen in the last few years show it's unpredictable.

Two of our favorite crazy flight deals from way back in 2018 were mistake fares that the airlines chose to honor. The $238 round-trip tickets from the U.S. to Croatia took the internet by storm, and we found it first. And amazingly, American Airlines decided to honor the fare that normally sells for $1,200 or more. We know plenty of Thrifty Traveler Premium members got in on this deal and scored an insane deal to go explore Croatian wonders like Dubrovnik, Split, and Plitvice Lakes.


Mistake Fares


But it got even better. In one of the best mistake fares of all time, Hong Kong Airlines sold $560 roundtrip tickets in business class from Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) to Bangkok (BKK), Shanghai (PVG), and Ho Chi Minh (SGN). These tickets normally cost close to $6,000 or more. And yet the airline decided to honor the tickets.


hong kong airlines mistake fare tweet


One of our favorite mistake fares of 2019 was a business class mistake fare to both Australia and New Zealand. For just $1,491 (a standard price of an economy flight to Australia), you could have gotten lounge access, and a business class seat including priority boarding, champagne, and lie-flat seats. The cost of this luxury experience is typically over $7,000.


biz mistake


More recently, the string of mistake fares has panned out for the travelers who snagged them. Those $62 Delta fares down to Chile in late 2020 went off without a hitch. Same goes for those $900 business class fares to London a few years ago, helping travelers get away with a massive business class bargain.

Only time will tell whether this latest Ireland deal will move forward. Three days after we uncovered those $148 to $200 fares, things are looking good. 

But other would-be mistake fare flyers over the years weren't so lucky. Those crazy fares from Miami to Brazil for $132 were canceled shortly after booking. Air New Zealand once published an insane deal for $328 to fly round-trip from the U.S. to New Zealand – flights that normally cost $1,100 and up. But the airline canceled all those tickets, scrapping traveler's dreams of a cheap way to explore New Zealand.

That's the life of a mistake fare flyer. The only thing you can do is wait and see – and hope. 


Bottom Line

Trying to work out when a mistake fare will pop up – and whether the airline will honor it – is nearly impossible.

Do what you can to get in on these deals: Book fast, be patient, and wait with bated breath to see whether your ticket is confirmed.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

10 Responses

  • New Zealand Air will honor my ticket that I scored from the error fare to sydney.
    I confirmed with their customer service on the phone and through their twitter account.
    The one i book to melbourne was cancelled though, I guess I am going to Sydney. Yay! Thank you

  • I was one of the ones that use the mistake fare to New Zealand and Australia. I booked 4 tickets for my family and we spent 2 1/2 weeks in both countries and loved it! It was one of my bucket list items and we did it in style for $6K total and it was normally almost $27K. Well worth the price of this subscription for life now. 🙂

  • TAP Portugal advertised a mistake fare earlier this week and I booked it. But 5 days later they canceled it “due to an error in the system.” So they did not honor their mistake.

    • Unfortunately, that’s the way mistake fares go. You win some, you lose some. Stay tuned for the next one!

  • What does a “solidly confirmed” email look like? I just booked an amazing Iceland deal and got a booking confirmation from the airline an hour later.

  • It wasn’t a mistake fare, per se, but thanks to TT I’m headed to Cape Town SA this coming Saturday in biz class on all segments on Lufthansa. Flying in the bubble of their 747-8 on three of the 4 legs. Cost came in a smidge over $1800. Same ticket a day later was $10k and is now $14k. Thanks TT. Fying in the upper deck of the 74 has been a bucket list item for years. Plus biz class lounge access is a big deal given the 14 hour layover in FRA.

  • I just joined today. My confirmation text says that I’ll get 2-4 offers annually, not 4-5 . What’s up with that?

    • Hi Karen & welcome! Unfortunately, mistake fares are absolutely unpredictable. Some years there are just 1-2. Other years we see 4-5 or even more. Rest assured, we will alert you to each and every mistake fare. Fingers crossed for more and more!

  • I remember several years back there was an error fare to fly to Asia in biz class for less than 50 award miles. After 2 or 3 days the airline said they were not going to honor the mistake. But one guy on Flytalk said: “Hello from Hong Kong.” He booked a flight for the next morning and traveled before the mistake was cancelled. LOL.

  • Snagged the Chicago to Dublin deal and it populated in the My Trips section of my Delta app pretty quickly and I selected seats. Hoping that my Amex Delta plat gets me the usual free checked bags. It’s been 4 days and the charge has processed. Fingers crossed. It was the same day my renewal charge processed – paid for itself right away!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Free Flight Alerts

Cheap international and domestic flight deal email alerts

Get Cheap Flight Alerts