an airplane window with wing and sky
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The heart rate- uncontrollable. Thanks to all the tips on finding mistake fares, the best deal you never even dreamed possible has just been booked, but the hardest part is still yet to come: flying it. From time to time, airlines experience a deep sense of sellers remorse, especially when a digit was left out of the fares- but there’s one thing you can do to instantly improve your chances.

a cell phone on a tableBook Direct

This is just the start of making the dream come true, but it’s the most important step. While some tickets can only be booked through certain online travel agencies, like Expedia- others can be booked directly with the airline or via a online travel agent. When you have the choice- ALWAYS book directly with the airline.  More often than not, if you look at historical “error” or “mistake” fares that have been honored, it’s the direct bookings that escaped the chop. Of course, there’s a difference between an “error” and a great deal, so if the ticket is part of a published sale, or just a normal limited time offer (deep down, you can tell ; )- book wherever you like.

a city street with many tall buildings and people crossing itWhy…

For a start, tickets booked directly with the airline are more likely to actually be ticketed sooner. Just because you get a confirmation doesn’t mean your ticket has actually been finalized, so the sooner a ticket is finalized, the better chance it sticks. This is also sadly where many blogs and deal sites will lead you astray. Many blogs only get paid from certain online travel agencies, and not airlines- so they tell you to book with some random site where they get the most money when you book. Guess how that travel site is going to feel when the airline comes asking for the real price to be paid to them, after they sold the ticket to you with a digit missing? They’re going to cancel your ticket unless you pony up the full amount, you likely would’ve never paid in the first place.

a bed in a planeTaking Things A Step Further

Dollars and cents can make a huge difference in deciding whether to honor a ticket, and also when trying to find the tickets that have been booked in error. While we won’t cite any specific examples, it’s been said that adding any extras to the ticket can help escape the cancellation police. Don’t go overboard with this, or waste money, but if the advertised error fare is $560 and you’re able to find one that’s $620, it’s possible this would be just the separation needed to fly above the fray.

a bridge over a river with boats and buildingsEven With Best Practices, It May Still Not Work

The best advice is to not make any onward plans, like hotels and other non refundable purchases for at least a week. The other best advice is to book a deal that leaves like… tomorrow, so that you can fly before a decision to cancel has been made. Technically, tickets which touch the U.S. are eligible for any incidental purchases to be covered- if cancelled by airline, but this is a time consuming grey area. Yes- you could theoretically book a hotel, and have the airline reimburse you if they cancel your tickets, but you’ll spend an awful lot of time and perhaps money in that pursuit, especially if you’re no longer able to go. Be patient, be polite, don’t call the airline and ask if they’re going to honor- use CheckMyTrip or MyFlights to stay on top of the ticket status and hope that the airline decided to be favorable.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. The first step is to not call them a mistake or an error. Doing so, as you have done, gives the airlines ammunition to cancel.

  2. Its one thing to find an unadvertised deal. Its another to take advantage of a mistake, regardless of how much you hold the airline in contempt for how they treat their relationship with you.

    Perhaps I’m naive or just old-fashioned, but I still believe in the Golden Rule. I sleep better at night because of it. Do I miss great deals because I refuse a gift horse without looking in its mouth? Perhaps. Or perhaps its because I learned a long time ago that free or cheap is anything but.

  3. Wow… this is the most crazy advice I’ve ever heard. Sounds like this was paid for by the airlines.

    You should ALWAYS use a travel agent. Not an online agency, but a real travel Agency.

    The airlines sell Millions via the agency sales channel. They have reps to assist when there are issues, including fare discrepancies.

    Your travel agent is your advocate. Good luck finding that online!!’

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