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If you’re able to secure a mistake fare and make it work with your schedule, you're in for an incredible journey. Mistake fares are only available for a brief time, so airfare booking decisions have to be made quickly and there’s no guarantee they’ll be honored. Here's everything you need to know about how to find mistake fares and some of the best price mistake websites to search for them.
Airfarewatchdog aggregates flight deals, and you can search for hot deals or apply search filters to narrow down your search by location and date. You can even search by specific airline if you have a favorite. The site is free to use, and you can also sign up for email alerts about cheap flights and price drops.
FlyerTalk is a great spot to chat with frequent flyers about their insider knowledge of cheap flights and other travel topics, like airlines, inclement weather, loyalty programs and more. You might not find specific mistake fares here, though searching the busy forums might pay off, but you’ll likely pick up a tip or two from the seasoned travelers who frequent the site.
3. The Flight Deal
The Flight Deal posts articles about the latest cheap flights and more, and you can subscribe to the site’s free email newsletter to be alerted to economy class airfare deals before they’re posted on The Flight Deal blog. For a subscription fee, you can also access a premium newsletter that shares early alerts for business class and first-class tickets.
Formerly known as Scott’s Cheap Flights, Going is a go-to site for many intrepid travelers. Going claims it can save you anywhere from 40%-90% off flights. You can sign up for free to get limited access to flight deals (you’ll get notified later than others and less frequently). Those who spring for a paid subscription get more alerts and find out about price drops sooner than those with a free plan.
5. Google Flights
For a more DIY approach, you can manually search for mistake fares on Google Flights. Simply enter your departure airport, leave the destination blank and enter a travel date.
On the search result page, select "All" under calendar > flexible dates and check off the duration of your trip (weekend, one week or two weeks). From there, you can use the map tool to find the lowest fares worldwide within the next six months. You might find a mistake fare or an excellent airfare deal this way.
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Skyscanner lets you search for and compare cheap flights by location, date and more. You can select the flight you want and get transferred right to the airline's booking page. The search tools allow for some other customizations as well, like opting for flights with lower carbon emissions or narrowing your date ranges to cheaper months.
What's more, you can browse Skyscanner for hotel and car rental deals too. And you can also set up custom price alerts to keep an eye on flights and ticket prices so you'll be poised to jump on a fare that appeals to you.
Slickdeals pulls together lots of discounts for savvy travelers, including deals on cheap airfares, hotels and more. Users scour the internet so you don’t have to, and new deals are posted regularly, making this a great spot to easily search for mistake fares and other cheap flights. Slickdeals is free to use, and you can set up custom alerts to get notified about deals specific to your interests.
Tips for Booking Mistake Fares
- Sign up for deal alerts: Many price mistake and airfare deal sites let you set up custom alerts to get recent or real-time info on cheap flights, delivered right to your inbox so you can be the first to know.
- Follow social media sites: You can sometimes find mistake fares on social media. Going, for example, posts travel tips and flight giveaways on Instagram. And SecretFlying posts flight deals on Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter.
- Keep your travel plans flexible: Mistake fares can pay off if you’re open with dates, departure cities and destinations. If you're unsure about your plans, it might make sense to book several tickets on different dates and cancel any that don't work with your schedule. You typically have 24 hours from booking time to cancel without penalty.
- Book quickly: If you see a good deal, you'll probably have to move fast. Mistake fares get snapped up quickly, so along with being flexible with your plans, you'll want to watch for these deals and be ready to book your trip quickly.
- Wait until your ticket is issued to book a hotel: Just because your ticket is booked doesn't mean the airline can't cancel it. Hold off on making nonrefundable hotel reservations until your ticket is issued (which happens within 24 hours of booking). Once you get a ticket number, you can safely book the rest of your trip. But to be extra sure, you can wait a few days before making plans.
- Use a credit card with trip cancellation insurance: There are no guarantees the airline won't cancel a mistake fare or something else might come up to get in the way of your travel plans. Book your flight and hotel with a credit card that offers trip cancellation coverage to give yourself some protection.
- Book with the airline: You can cut out the middleman by booking directly with an airline. In many cases, the ticket is issued to you faster, and booking directly helps you earn frequent flyer points or miles when you pay with the right travel rewards card.
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A mistake fare is an airline ticket significantly discounted due to a pricing error. Mistake fares aren't publicized by airlines. Instead, they're often discovered by savvy travel hackers and shared on social media. Mistake fares aren't protected by Department of Transportation rules, but airlines often still honor them. Sometimes, just the taxes and fees are calculated, generating abnormally low fares. Other times, currency conversion errors explain the discrepancy.
Mistake fares typically happen due to IT glitches. An airline website or online travel agency mistakenly prices out flights (and sometimes even hotels) substantially less than usual. Sometimes mistake fares pop up on weekends, when the IT department is out or understaffed.
It's difficult to say whether mistake fares are common since only a small percentage might get noticed. However, there are travel sites built exclusively for the purpose of finding and sharing mistake fares. Some of these sites operate on a subscription model, generating revenue from presumably satisfied customers. So while it's difficult to pinpoint how common mistake fares are, they're common enough to keep these businesses afloat.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a rule in 2011 prohibiting airlines from increasing airfare after purchase. However, in April 2015, DOT clarified that this rule did not apply to mistake fares. While airlines are no longer bound to honor mistake fares, many still do. There are no guarantees and it depends on the type of fare and cabin class, but airlines might let you keep your mistake fare booking.
If you book a mistake fare, wait until your ticket is actually issued before making any further travel plans. Usually, this takes place within 24 hours of booking. If the airline or online travel agency decides to cancel your mistake fare, you'll usually get notified within that period, though it could take longer.