How to Ensure You’re On the Inside to Learn About the Next Mistake Fare

Did you book a $178 roundtrip ticket to Abu Dhabi, or a bit more expensive ticket to Africa, India, or Southeast Asia?

Many readers wanted to know, but how do you find these? and how to stay in the loop for other fares like this?

Two things to understand in your quest for fat finger discounts (leaving out digits on a fare or rate), currency conversion errors, and other special opportunities.

  1. There aren’t as many airline airfare mistakes as there used to be. Airlines have better tools, especially for international fares, to catch mistakes before they’re actually published. Those tools began rolling out in 2009, and now it’s mostly international airlines that haven’t really learned to use them that wind up publishing international mistakes. (This refers to price mistakes, but other kinds of mistakes like routing rules still persist.)
  2. People don’t share as openly as they used to. Over time I found most of the best deals on Flyertalk in the Mileage Run forum. Most of the best deals wound up posted by new members. Why? Because that’s who most of the members were. And deals were found by having large numbers of people searching for their own travels, and then posting when they came across something fishy. Now most of the discussions of these sorts of deals happen behind closed doors, amongst smaller groups of people, but that comes at the cost of having fewer people searching and participating and even potentially fewer deals found.

Much of the discussion of mistake deals, and mileage strategy, takes place outside of public view — in private forums (I can think of at least three that are active) and private email lists (I can think of at least two active ones).

Those private forums and lists, though, don’t have all of the deals because deals are found often by accident by large numbers of people. I’m fortunate to have several tens of thousands of readers, many of whom email me, and their input doesn’t wind up in those private places generally. When they offer something useful, and don’t ask that the information not be shared, I’ll post it here. Sometimes posting a mistake deal will anger folks who might have known about it otherwise, and who want to keep it for themselves.

Of course, sometimes having lots of people in on a deal helps get it honored (because people are exchanging information, and the publicity costs for failing to do so are higher). And sometimes having lots of people in on a deal raises its costs and so it’s harder for a travel provider to honor.

And many people won’t partake at all, finding it unethical to book something at a price that a travel provider didn’t intend to offer it. Sometimes great deals are intentional and we may not even know (Independence Air once purposely loaded a mistake fare in the middle of the night, waited for a handful of people to book it, and then called the Washington Post to let them know, “you never know when you’ll find an amazing deal on our website!” was their refrain).

My general take is that if a deal isn’t honored, and it isn’t honored promptly and transparently, I’m ok with that — any Department of Transportation rules on this notwithstanding, even. But if a travel provider is going to offer once in a lifetime type deals, and honor them, I’d like to be one of the people who gets to go.

With much of the talk of mistakes gone underground, my suggestions are as follows.

  • Follow blogs like mine. I do occasionally write about these opportunities when they arise.
  • Follow The Flight Deal, there’s no better source for short-term airfare deals.
  • Subscribe to the Good Deal Premium Fare Deals forum on Flyertalk. Lots of the better deals do get posted there, but you have to wade through a lot of noise to notice them.
  • Meet people. I’m fortunate to have so many readers, but I find that the best deals do make it out fairly broadly at least via email — the people you know send them out to their friends and acquaintances by email (sometimes possibly just wanting to look ‘in the know’). Sometimes private forum deals leak out this way. So go to gatherings of frequent flyers, build your own networks, and people will start sharing these things. One place that they seem to get discussed is Twitter.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. You can also set-up IFTTT alerts using the RSS/Twitter feeds of the sources you mentioned.

    I just wrote a tutorial at

    Thanks for sharing.

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