A Primer on Mistake Fares and Hotel Bookings

Posted on May 21, 2014 by in Mistake Fares

Just the other day, I saw a posting (now expired) for extremely cheap bookings at the Millenium Resort in Patong, which is an area in Phuket, Thailand. I'm not a big fan of Patong, but at 8 British pounds a night, I can handle all of the rampant sex tourism and sleaziness of the area.

"Mistake fares", as they're normally called, can be attributed to any number of things: confusion in currency exchanges, "fat finger" syndromes and just plain carelessness. However, they are some of the cheapest ways to experience flights and hotels at ridiculously low prices. Some of the most famous mistake fares include the $33 Alitalia business class flight to Cyprus and the $3 a night Hilton Osaka several years ago.

By nature, these deals are unpredictable and if you are lucky enough to come across an obvious mistake fare, here are a few tips on how to approach the situation:

1. Book it quickly: These deals never last very long and in some cases are gone within minutes. Everyone has different ideas on the value of money, but most of these mistake fares are such slam-dunk deals (e.g. $10/night hotels) that it just makes sense to book first and ask questions later. Predictably, hotels and airlines are in the business of making money and many of these deals don't go through which leads me to point 2:

2. Hold off for a bit to see if the airline/hotel cancels the deal: It's really sort of hit or miss as to whether or not the airline or hotel will honor these pricing mistakes. Lately, I've had some bad luck as my eight reservations at $10/night at the Travelsuites Seattle and the infamous 4 United miles for first class to Hong Kong were both cancelled quickly after booking. It would've been very bad if I had made non-refundable or non-cancellable flight or hotel plans around these deals and, similarly, you should build in a week or two to see if these mistake fares will really hold up.

3. Do not call the hotel, airline or OVA: I know this sounds like common sense, but a lot of people are too nice for their own good. They think that the deal must be too good to be true (essentially it is) and want some sort of validation for booking it. Worst case scenario: you book the hotel or flight, and the travel provider cancels the deal. No harm, no foul.


Image from upgrd.com

I don't scour Flyertalk as much as some other travel hackers and I don't really use Twitter so a lot of these deals are gone before I get the chance to try and book them. However, I have been able to snag some great mistake fares: I was able to book 31 nights at the Grand Hyatt Seoul last year for $30 a night (instead of the normal $300 rate) and I've flown on a few flights where fuel surcharges were accidentally left off, offering hundreds of dollars in savings.

Keep your eyes out for these mistake fares!

If you like this post – subscribe via email or follow us on Twitter.