Is it Ok to Book Mistake Fares? Is it Ok for Airlines to Cancel Them? And Where Do You Find Them?

Air Canada published mistake business class prices for bundles of flight passes last week and they’re refusing to honor them. The only people who got to fly were those who booked immediate travel, before Air Canada acted.

I spoke to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s CBC News about mistake fares.

My general take: it’s fine to book mistake fares, as long as airlines address them expeditiously it’s fine for airlines not to honor true extreme mistakes, you win some and you lose some and move on to the next opportunity.

The Department of Transportation will no longer make airlines honor mistake fares (for travel to or from the US) as long as the airlines cover nonrefundable costs incurred by travelers whose reservations they cancel.

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. Nice click bait. Nothing more than a few lines of text to show everyone that you were in Canadian media.

  2. Tyler, we’re all sick and tired of reading your bitching. Quit being an asshole, or quit coming around here.

  3. There are at least a few kinds of mistake fares:
    1) Those that any idiot knows are a mistake. No, there will never be a “sale fare” for long haul business class at under $100.
    2) Those that any idiot knows are a mistake and also has to take hacking-type action to access, such as paying in Danish Krone when you have no ties to Denmark.
    3) Those that could be a fabulous sale and you wouldn’t be 100% sure.

    In case #1, it’s worth a try, but don’t whine if it’s not honored.

    In case #2, many would consider it unethical but some people will do it anyway, and those are the people that caused DOT to change their policies when they got tired of the entitled complainers wasting their time.

    It’s case #3 where the airlines need to notify the passenger right away, and DOT has a role in protecting the public from possible pricing shenanigans. They certainly don’t have a viable solution yet, and I have no confidence the end policy will be a good one.

    I don’t jump on mistake fares, admittedly because they seldom fit my travel plans, but by dumb luck did get a room in a nice Norwegian hotel for 6 euros not long ago. I kept quiet about it, and the price was honored. I asked the clerk at check out about it, and she said: “That was a mistake, but only a few people booked before we fixed it, and my boss decided we’d honor it. I was glad it was her that made the mistake and not me.”

  4. I agree with Tyler. The title of the post should have been: “Look everyone — I was in the paper again”.

  5. Geez. I’ve said this many times before and I will say it again. Your titles are clickbait-ish and you seriously need to stop. This post is pointless. You frame the issue with the title and spend one sentence answering it. The bulk of the post is you humblebragging about how your face is on a CBC article.

    “But the article discusses mistake fares so it’s relevant!” Oh really, Gary? The most important excerpt from the article just happens to be the 4 paragraphs next to your photo? Sure buddy, we believe ya. And it’s very educational for us to know that you fetishize mistake fares. So tell us, after you and the airline beat each other, do you guys cuddle?

    We get it. Congratulations, your photo is on a news article. Everyone back in the Shire must be real proud of you. Now please stop with the bad titles. “CBC wrote a post about me” is a sufficiently good title. Stop jazzing it up for more clicks.

  6. So let’s say a “mistake” fare comes up to fly someplace for $49 instead of $999…

    If you booked nonrefundable hotel that was $399 a night for a week, does the airline have to pay you the $2793 if they cancel your ticket that was booked/confirmed?

    You could do quite well getting the “free” hotel and then just paying the full price for a new/different ticket…

  7. @Matt, I think then they’d choose to honor the fare and you’re stuck with the $2,793 hotel bill. As I mentioned, I don’t think they have it right yet.

  8. My view: If you know it’s a mistake it is unethical to try to take advantage of it. It’s no different than cheating a merchant out of money on a physical product that you know has been mistakenly priced, and that they will lose money because of you. Let’s all just try to treat each other as human beings, o.k.?

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