What is a mistake fare, what are do’s and don’ts of mistake fares and what are some of the best mistake fares?

Posted on June 10, 2019 by in Mistake Fares

Definition of a mistake fare

Mistake fares (sometimes called ‘error fare’) are airline pricing errors typically in the consumers favor. “Mistake fares” can be attributed to any number of things: confusion in currency exchanges, “fat finger” syndromes computer errors or intentional sales by airlines filling unsold inventory. However, they are some of the cheapest ways to experience flights and hotels at ridiculously low prices. It is not uncommon to get up to 95% off their regular prices.

What are do’s and don’ts with a mistake fare?

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.

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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.

As a rule of thumb a deal will likely be honored if:

  • the airline is a Skytrax 5 Star Airline (and thus has good will to loose from random cancellations) i.e. airlines that provide superior customer service often end up honoring ‘mistake fares’ while airlines that generally ‘compete on price’ will not
  • just a few passengers booked it or a very large number of passengers booked it (the in between usually get cancelled)

You should typically wait about two weeks to see if a ‘mistake fare’ will be honored.

3. Do not call the airline or hotel

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.

4. Consider legal action

In many jurisdictions airlines can’t easily cancel a contract and as a consumer you have a number of rights you can enforce. Of course this takes time way from anything else you could do.

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What are some of the best mistake fares?

Qatar Airways Business Class Mistake Fares

Qatar Airways is one of our favorite airlines and has been voted “Best Airline’ and “Best Business Class” by Skytrax. Qatar Airways features an excellent inflight service and new planes plus great catering.

In 2016 the airline published Business Class airfares from Algiers, Algeria to Fuzhou, China for a fraction of their regular prices (under $300 for International Business Class).

Just a few months later the airline published airfares from Saigon to many places in the Americas including Argentina and most Qatar destinations in the US for under $600.

Just two weeks ago Qatar Airways and Royal Air Maroc published a Business Class fares under $600 from Manila, the Philippines to Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

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Hong Kong Airlines Business Class Mistake Fares

In August 2018 Hong Kong Airlines published Business Class airfares for $700 Round Trip to Asia from San Francisco and Los Angeles. Hong Kong Airlines had just taken delivery of their new A350s with a lie-flat Business Class product. I loved my Round Trip Business Class flight to Hong Kong.

Emirates Airways Mistake Fares


Emirates ‘chose’ the Maldives as their departing airport for a mistake fare to the US for just $99 in Economy Class. After an initial wave of cancellations the company had a change of heart and decided to honor the fare.

Cathay Pacific First Class Mistake Fares

Cathay Pacific published First and Business Class fares around $1,000 to the US from many Vietnamese cities in early 2019. The fares were only available for a few hours but the company ended up honoring the fares in full (or provided a refund) for all passengers participating in the deal. Many of the tickets earned up to 50,000 miles with Alaska Mileage Plan – plus you get a ‘free’ First Class flight – amazing!


About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]

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