Error Fares & Fuel Dumps

Error Fares & Fuel Dumps

What you need to know before you book a cheap flight ticket

How To Avoid The “Error Fare” Scam

Once in a while perhaps once or twice a year major airlines will make an error in calculating fares.Usually, this is a fat finger” mistake — they simply leave off a zero and a fare from, say, Paris to New York becomes $80 instead of $800 or a fare from Boston to Delhi becomes $709 instead of $790. These fares get posted by the airlines into a network of computer systems where travel agents and, more importantly, Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) like Priceline or Expedia can then sell them to the public.

Sometimes these fares are available for a few minutes before the mistake is corrected. Or, they may available for hours or, on rare occasions, may stay up for a day or longer. Savvy fliers know that these mistakes are traditionally honored — under certain circumstances — and that those who move quickly can sometimes grab seats at a healthy discount.

But the excitement over these occasional super deals has created an opportunity for unscrupulous discount travel websites and bloggers who are out to make a quick buck. We call it the “Error Fare Scam” -- read on for more details....

The Mistake Fare Industry

There's a new cottage industry of bloggers, budget travel websites and OTAs who create bogus "error fares” or “mistake fares” to lure the unwary. While a real error may well be honored by the airline, these fares are completely different.Bogus errors are designed to get you to buy a ticket that will almost certainly be cancelled or, worse, result in additional charges at boarding, loss of frequent flyer accounts or flat out denial of boarding on your return leg. 

The benefit to those who operate these scams is usually the increased traffic to their web sites and increased commissions.

At best these offers are click bait. At worst, these sites create profits will putting unwary travelers at risk of ruined vacations and expensive additional flights.

What is an “Error" or “Mistake" Fare?

As mentioned above, from time to time airlines make mistakes. But these genuine errors are few and far between. The vast majority of the “error” or “mistake” fares posted on blogs and websites that offer astonishingly low prices are not true errors at all.

Instead, they are itineraries that these websites or blogs have themselves created by manipulating fare rules and using insider knowledge to artificially lower the price at specific online travel agencies or search engines.

Creating An Error...

First, they find a website that will unwittingly accept a bogus itinerary that results in a super low price. Then they create a direct link called a “deeplink” to the purchase page. That link is featured in their blurb on the so-called error — and that is the link they want you to follow. Their goal is to collect a commission if possible and generate a flood of excited budget travelers to their website.

How to recognize a scam

Look For Clues...

In fact, your first clue to a sham error is when it only works on one online travel agency (OTA). These are usually based in Russia, Europe or India and are often nothing more than a couple of people and a server. If you find the super low price on one of these exotic OTAs but you can’t find it on Google Flights or Travelocity chance are it is bogus.

On the other hand, sometimes a major OTA like Expedia will make an error. This will be noticed fairly quickly by the OTA and may only be available for a few minutes or hours until a fix is made. The question then is whether they cancel it.

The giveaway that tells you you've found an Error Fare Scam.

When you look closely at the itinerary and see a completely unrelatedtrip attached to the main itinerary you are probably looking at a bogus error fare. So, for example, lets say you see a so-called “error” fare between Lisbon and Sao Paulo priced at 110 Euro. Sounds good, right? But if you examine the fare closely and see there is an extra leg after you get home between, say, Brussels and Amsterdam, watch out! You just found a bogus error fare.

See the section on "Hidden City" for more details.