How can flying literally around the world be cheaper than flying around your own country? There’s no shortage of mystery in travel and booking flights is a big part of the magic. Sometimes they’re called error fares, sometimes “mistake” fares, but we’re seeing more instance than ever where there are unimaginable deals in every cabin. Here’s how to find them and what you need to know about them…

an airplane wing and water with a sunset

So What Makes An Error Or Mistake Fare?

Like Fight Club, the first rule of Fight Club, is that you don’t speak of Fight Club. It’s the same with these fares. The airline world is extremely competitive and it’s not irregular at all to see one airline slash fares aiming to oust their competition on a certain route. Because it sounds exciting and is fun to draw attention, people love to call these fares “error” fares or “mistake” fares. Sure, sometimes someone may accidentally leave a zero off of a fare when punching it into the master mega computer, but that’s not something we know. Just assume it’s not an error, book, and never call it one of those two words. I prefer to just call them awesome deals.

a seat in an airplane

How Do You Find These Awesome Deals?

We’re seeing an entire community developing behind these awesome deal opportunities. I recommend regularly browsing the FlyerTalk Mileage Run DealsSecret Flying, The Flight Deal, as well as setting price alerts on AirFareWatchDog and Kayak for a flight you’re interested in. Utilizing all these tools, you’d have to be very unlucky to not find what you’re looking for. For example, yesterday I could’ve booked a round trip flight from New York to Portugal for $176 round trip in economy. We’ve even seen longer business class flights around $300 before.

a green field with trees and a mountain in the background


For most airlines, especially those involving flights to or from the US, you have 24 hours to cancel risk free, for a full refund. I have all the nitty gritty on that over HERE. In general, the best of these fares do not last more than a mere couple of hours and those who wait to firm up plans and shop around lose out. If you want one of these beautiful fares, confirm that you have the 24 hour rule in your favor and then book. If you have to cancel, full refund, if you have to change dates, you may be able to rebook before it ends. Either way you won’t miss out, which I’ve done too many times.

a yellow sign with black text

Is There Any Risk Or Protocol To Booking These?

Consumers are highly protected against airlines trying to change the price of something after you’ve paid it. Basically, you’ll never ever be forced to pay another, higher price. Third party booking sites are somewhat similar, but since at the end of the day, they have to pay the airline, if they sell you a ticket for a price too low, they may want to cancel your ticket since they can’t ask you for more money. For that reason it’s important not to make other non refundable plans like hotels or car rental bookings until you know for sure that your reservation is good to go. Once you have a receipt with ticket number it’s a good indication that you’re ok, but it’s a good idea to check in with the site you booked from, or the place you found the deal every few days to make sure everything is happy days. When booking, don’t call the airline to ask about the price. They put it up there, it’s their issue to deal with. 

a sign in a building

Do You Earn Miles On These Fares?

With few exceptions, yes, absolutely! As long as the fare books into a published fare class, which everything you buy on an airline site will, you’ll earn some miles and status points. It’s for that exact reason we find such a big discussion of these fares on the MileageRun forum, where people discuss ways to get the most frequent flyer miles for the least amount of money! 

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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