It’s no secret that holiday prices soar over the school holidays – it’s supply and demand, after all, but for eagle eyed bookers, there may be a clever way around it.
That’s through finding ‘error fares’ – which are accidental deals put up by airlines and agents at incredibly low prices.
This can be anything from a £200 return ticket to Malaysia or a £10 flight to Europe – but the trick is, you’ve got to be fast.
What are ‘error fares’?
Error fares are basically reduced tickets that are uploaded by mistake – due to a glitch or the wrong click of a button, for example. Often they’ll be missing an extra ‘0’, making the holiday ten times cheaper than it should be.
In some cases they’ll be the result of a computer conversion error, where fares miscalculated from one currency to another.
“With the abundance of flights being booked through outdated reservation systems, the odd mishap is often unavoidable,” explained Edgars Plešs at TravelFree.info.
“Perhaps more importantly, often the correction process is so money and time consuming, that they’ll just let it run its course. This means cheap flights are up for grabs,” he added.
How to find the glitches
There are a few websites worth keeping an eye on for these ridiculously low fares.
Travel website Holiday Pirates has an error fares page which recently featured a trip from London to Los Angeles for £35.
In the past, there’s also been hotel deals to the Dominican Republic from £11 per person and London to New Zealand for £238 return . But you’ve got to be really quick, this £2 ticket to Denmark sold out in minutes .
Error sites scour the web for cheap and incorrectly advertised deals – which will often be labelled as ‘mistake fares’, ‘error fares’, or sometimes ‘fat finger’ fares.
These terms indicate what happens when a misplaced decimal point, miscalculated currency conversion, or data entry error accidentally leads to an incorrectly advertised price.
Cheap Flights Lab also tracks airline glitches – but be aware that some journeys may depart from Europe – so you’ll have to fly out there first.
Current deals include Dusseldorf to Faro for €17 and Dublin to Toronto for £258 return .
Another hidden gem is Secret Flying . Less about hotels and more on flights, some of its current deals include an all-in-one trip from London to Dubai and the UAE for £252 and a round trip to Copenhagen, Denmark and Hong Kong for only €357 .
It’s also worth keeping an eye on ticket-checker website Check My Trip to see if your trip has been honoured.
If your ticket reservation number is displayed on the site, the chances are, it’s been given the green light.
If you are on the hunt for an error fare, you could also try using social media. Try searching using possible phrases such as #errorfare #mistakefares #airlineglitch on twitter or Facebook and you might be pleasantly surprised.
What if the airline refuses to honour the deal?
Travellers should be careful about booking anything too far in advance as airlines are not legally obliged to honour their mistakes.
This basically means that the more last minute the deal, the greater your chance at locking it in.
American Airlines famously came under fire in 2016 after cancelling hundreds of error fare flights which saw travellers fly to China for free.
However, after outrage by the travellers, they decided to honour the fares despite losing thousands of pounds.
“Airlines are not usually obligated to honour glitch fares, but some choose to do so as a courtesy to their customers,” experts at Skyscanner explained.
“An airline will likely not honour any glitches that were caused by customers who misused or manipulated the reservation system to score better deals.
“Some airlines also will not honour fares that were priced unbelievably low and should not have been booked due to common sense. However, it may sometimes be difficult for airlines to avoid honouring these error fares because of government regulations that prohibit false advertising and post-purchase price increases.
“It’s also possible that flights with error fares will be cancelled entirely. In these cases, airlines will typically give you your money back, so you have no risk of losing it.”
Tips to find the bargains
As many of these ‘deals’ are mistakes, it’s not advised to get in touch with the airline if you spot one.
If you call to double-check, you will most likely be informed that it is a mistake and asked to wait until it is fixed – when you’ll see it jump by three hundred to five hundred percent.
Play it safe – tips to make sure you’re not left out of pocket
It’s always worth taking a few precautions to make sure you don’t lose any money on your booking:
Pay using a credit card so that the payment goes through quicker and you can get your money back if the firm refuses to honour your deal/refund your money back. (You are covered by Section 75 providing the amount spent (or any part of it) is between £100 and £30,000).
If you don’t have a credit card and the transaction is under £100 in value, TravelSupermarket recommends paying the whole amount by debit card.
MasterCard and Visa operate a chargeback scheme that will generally pay out should your travel plans disintegrate before you set off. And that’s a lot better than paying by cash, cheque, pre-paid card or bank transfer, with which you receive no protection at all.
It is wise to put off booking any other holiday plans such as accommodation, transfers or car hire which depend on the flights until you receive full confirmation that it’s gone through.
Check the airline’s terms and conditions: some will reserve the right to cancel your order right up until they deliver the tickets to you.
To ensure your holiday is financially protected, look out for the ATOL logo, adds TravelSupermarket. This ensures that you will be looked after if either all or part of the travel you have booked goes wrong.
ATOL cover is for package holidays where there is a flight and another element to your holiday being booked together for you. Should something happen before you travel, you would receive a full refund, replacement travel or new dates of travel, depending on the situation.
Fake websites are all over the web – don’t fall for them. Watch out for prices which are simply too good to be true. Other obvious signs are cheap-looking, low-resolution sites, with fuzzy logos for the major trade associations (such as ABTA) and credit card companies.
Remember, most fraudsters are looking for a quick rip-off, so investing large sums of money into a fake website isn’t high on their priority list. Even something as small as a change in the domain name – for example, going from a co.uk to .org – could be a sign of fraud.
If in any doubt at all, put the company name into a search engine and check the reviews and comments made by other travellers. Then double-check the memberships and licences they trade under.