Can I actually buy the error fares I see or hear about?
The answers is "sometimes"... Let’s go back to the point where you’ve found a super low “error” fare and want to make the purchase. The “fake errors” we are discussing are often ghosts and, when you get to the payment page, the price will suddenly jump. Just as frequently, they are cancelled when the OTA realizes what has happened. This may be frustrating to you but it generates “clicks” and potential commissions to the websites and blogs who posted the link.
But other people are getting tickets! I can see their comments…
The error fare scam is really about getting lots of people to visit the website and tell their friends to visit it as well. If they can generate 10,000 visits in a morning that translates into income. Which is why most of the websites and blogs that play the “error fare” game post comments from happy users and encourage you to post them as well. But try posting a negative comment — or look to see if there are any. Negative comments that customers post are usually removed promptly — and angry customers are easily blocked from making additional posts.
So what are the risks?
There are several major risks to buying a bogus “error fare”.
As we've described elsewhere, you can be stranded, your baggage can be sent to a different city, you can lose your money and the airline may demand additional payment. In the US and Europe there are regulations that provide you with specific protection if you purchase a ticket in which the airline made a genuine error. But these protections do NOT extend to the fabricated errors and bogus “mistake” fares that are hyped by low cost travel sites and that appear on blogs. Obviously, if you were protected, they would be able to say so on their websites —but they can’t.
What's the bottom line?
You may get lucky, but here is the bottom line when you purchase a bogus "error fare":
- You have NO protection against cancellation
- You have NO protection against the airline asking for an additional payment as you prepare to board
- You have NO protection against “denial of boarding”
- You have NO protection against the airline freezing your frequent flyer account on the grounds that you are defrauding them
- You have NO protection against being denied boarding at your destination country and being required to pay a substantial amount for new tickets.
What if I get a bogus error fare ticket and they allow me on the plane?
So, let’s say all goes well. You get the ticket, you fly to Brazil or Singapore or some other exotic place at a bargain basement price.
But here’s another risk the blogs don’t tell you about: When it is time to go home you show up at the airport and find your flight has been cancelled due to bad weather or mechanical issues. Seasoned travelers know this is not uncommon and is just part of air travel. But with a bogus error fare ticket you now face a potential problem. If the flight is cancelled the airline will need to issue a new ticket. But, when your ticket is run through the computer system, it will be rejected and flagged. At that point you are in a foreign country where local regulations and laws could create serious problems.
In some parts of the world there is even a possibility that airport security would involve local police and there could be unpredictable consequences.
If I buy an error fare and it is cancelled, willI get my money back?
In the USA and Europe the chances are very good that your credit card will not be charged or later refunded when one of these bogus fares is cancelled — especially if you were using one of the big online travel agencies (OTAs) to make your purchase. In addition, you can call your credit card company and attempt to cancel the charge.
However, if you are dealing with an unknown offshore OTA in Russia, Brazil, or India you may run into problems since those OTAs tend to be small and less likely to be responsive.