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Airline pricing glitches occur several times a year.
When they do, thousands of travelers swoop in quickly to take advantage of the good deal.
Here’s how you can be one of the lucky ones and find a really great deal on cheap airline tickets too…
Retail Price Glitches Frequently Happen
Retail stores that stock thousands of items often experience pricing glitches. Lucky shoppers who are at the right place at the right time can walk away with some great bargains!
For example, if the pricetag on a $500 cashmere sweater is missing a zero, some shoppers may be able to buy that sweater for $50 before some alert cashier notices the pricing glitch.
Yes, stores usually do honor such incorrect prices. They don’t ask for their merchandise back once it leaves the store.
Airline Glitches Happen Too
Airlines tend to be particularly prone to airfare glitches. They have extremely complex pricing systems in place that even airline industry experts often have trouble figuring out.
When a pricing glitch occurs, it can sometimes go unnoticed for an entire day — or two!
Every year, thousands of airline customers come away with unbelievable deals on cheap airline tickets, thanks to these price glitches.
Most of the time, airlines don’t cancel the tickets that were issued in error — they honor them.
Here’s proof that airline mistakes happen, and the airlines will still honor the cheap ticket prices.
Examples Of Airline Glitches
Price glitches occur at every major airline. You just need to keep your eyes and ears open.
Here are some examples:
In December 2013, customers looking for tickets on Delta Airlines found unbelievable accidental deals. The news spread quickly over social media:
- $6.99 for roundtrip tickets from New York to Hawaii (a fare that would normally cost around $1,000)
- first-class tickets from Houston to San Francisco for $132
- and more!
Thousands of people took advantage of these cheap airline tickets! Delta decided to not be a party-pooper so close to Christmas — they honored all of those tickets.
Not every pricing glitch (or error fare) is honored though:
- In October 2013, United had a Mileage Plus frequent flyer program glitch that priced airline tickets between New York and Dublin at $49. They decided to cancel those tickets.
- In 2010, American Airlines sold first-class tickets worth $11,000 from the U.S. to Australia at $1,100 by mistake. They didn’t honor those tickets, either.
Here’s a list of every U.S. airline glitch to date.
How Do Airlines Decide When To Honor Mistakes & When Not To?
Airlines don’t have a uniform rule in place that dictates how they will respond to airline tickets purchased during pricing glitches. Instead, they tend to make their decision regarding these matters on the fly each time.
Here are 4 things they take into consideration:
#1 – Sometimes, they won’t honor the cheap airline tickets if it’s obvious the problem arose as a result of manipulation.
In the case of the Mileage Plus glitch at United, the airline refused to honor tickets because customers were felt to be manipulating the system. How? Posts appeared on various forums that shared step-by-step instructions on how exactly to make a booking to take advantage of the glitch.
#2 – Sometimes, they won’t honor the cheap airline tickets if they simply believe that customers should have known better. If they don’t want to take a hit for these glitches, they’ll tell customers that they should’ve known that “95% discounts” would be a mistake — obviously too good to be true.
That’s what British Airways did when a glitch made a $550 flight from the U.S. to India sell for $40. Aer Lingus did the same thing when they mistakenly sold business class tickets within Europe at $7 for round-trips.
#3 – Always, they consider whether failing to honor the accidental cheap airline tickets would violate the law or not.
The Department of Transportation has strict rules in place governing false advertising. Glitch or no glitch, the DOT usually requires airlines to honor the cheap airline tickets they sell — whatever the prices may be.
When British Airways failed to honor the $40 tickets to India that it sold by mistake, the DOT charged the airline with false advertising. As a result, British Airways was forced to reimburse money to passengers.
#4 – Always, they think about the kind of customer relations problem that could arise if they didn’t honor the cheap airline tickets.
No matter how unfair a ticket price may be to an airline, they usually don’t refuse to honor tickets if doing so could hurt their reputation.
How To Find Flight Glitches
For the most part, finding an airline pricing glitch comes down to good old-fashioned luck.
However, there are a few things you can do to be among the first to know about any cheap airline ticket glitches that arise in the future.
Prepare now so you can take advantage cheap airline tickets when they appear. Here’s how:
#1 – Get on FlyerTalk, an online forum for people interested in travel. Flyer Talk quickly posts news of pricing glitches as soon as they occur. Keep an eye out for these reports.
#2 – Get on every airline deal forum you can think of. These types of websites often find out about accidental fares and announce them to the public — either in their forums or via email alerts (so yes, sign up for their free alerts or newsletters):
#3 – Get on Facebook and Twitter. If you regularly scan through social media looking for certain phrases and airline names, you’ll come across cheap airline tickets.
- Follow the Twitter and Facebook accounts of each of the above forums.
- Regularly check for posts having to do with every major airline. Pay special attention whenever an airline is “trending” on social media!
- Set up search queries for “error fare” in Twitter and Facebook — and check them frequently. That way, you’ll be alerted right away whenever these airline glitches occur.
Must read: 3 Airfare Pricing Glitches To Avoid
Always on the lookout for a good bargain, I consider myself a frugal person — but not cheap. And not afraid to spend money on the things that matter. I like to share good deals with others when I find them. One of my favorite ways to save money is to reuse items in ways other than their intended purpose — so I write a lot about outside-the-box ideas that most people wouldn't think of! When I'm not saving money or looking for good deals, you'll find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites).