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How To Properly Capitalize On Mistake Fares & Glitches

By October 22, 2012 December 10th, 2013 No Comments

For those of you not following FFU on Facebook and Twitter, I strongly encourage you to do so because that is where I first post all Breaking Travel Deals. Most of you subscribe by email and those posts get automatically sent out at 4AM every morning. So if I write about the deal on the FFU website, chances are most of you won’t see it until the next day when the deal is already dead. On Facebook and Twitter, I can post the deal in real time and answer any questions about it, so please follow me there if you haven’t already done so. Below was the FFU Facebook post from Saturday.

As you can see, this weekend we saw one of best fare glitches I have seen in a while. In case you are unaware, Alitalia (an Italian Airline) via their Japanese website, was offering a $320 discount on any Alitalia Flights. There weren’t any limitations on this offer, so an Alitalia flight from New York (JFK) to Madrid that is normally $602 in February, became $282! What was even better is that flights less than $320 within Europe on Alitalia were basically free after the discount! So you could get to Madrid for $282 roundtrip and then fly anywhere within Europe for free.

Using Google Chrome and its built-in free translating service, I went to Alitalia’s Japanese website and went ahead and booked 2 tickets in February for $564 total or 45,080 Yen. Once I had the JFK to Madrid flights booked, I went ahead and separately booked connecting flights to Amsterdam and Istanbul, since they were free! So for $282, hopefully I will be going to Madrid, Istanbul, and Amsterdam in February!

Although all the tickets were issued and I received email confirmations, not surprisingly Alitalia was not happy when they discovered this glitch and sent emails that all the tickets had been canceled. That being said, for those of you that did get in on the deal, if you go to SaudiAirlines.com, the click on Manage My Bookings, and then eTicket. Enter the first 3 numbers of your ticket (055) in the first box, and then the rest of your ticket numbers (less the 055) in the 2nd box, and it will show that the tickets are still valid and issued. The only thing is that the coupon code is showing as void, so all the tickets are full price. I would be more concerned about this but because on the intra-Europe flights the balance was $0 after the coupon, they never asked for a Credit Card! That being said, it will be interesting how this whole thing plays out but I am fairly confident that come February, I will be on a plane to Madrid, Istanbul, and Amsterdam for $282. Delta had a similar mistake fare in March 2011 to Madrid and it was about $280. Delta never said anything about it, so my Friend and I ended up flying to Madrid for under $300!

The reason I am recapping this is because there were obviously a few moving parts to this offer that made it semi complicated; time sensitive deal, coupon code, Japanese website, fixed routing, uncertainty about deal, etc.

When many Beginners see these types of deals, although they know it is a good deal, they may be hesitant to jump in on it because of all the moving parts.

I was like this at one time, but over the years I developed a system on how to properly take advantage of these mistake fares. So hopefully next time there is a deal, those of you that sat on the sidelines this time will take the plunge!

How To Properly Capitalize On Mistake Fares & Glitches

1) Follow FFU & All Your Other Favorite Blogs On Twitter & Facebook

I check all the blogs a couple times a day, but I know most people don’t care that much or have actual work to do. That is why I recommend following all your favorite Travel Blogs on Facebook & Twitter. This way if there is ever a deal, you will find out about it right away because lets be honest, I am sure you have Facebook open right now as you read this…

2) Read The Original Blog Post

Once it is a apparent there is a deal or glitch, read the Original Blog Post where the information came from. When a deal comes up, I normally throw it up on the FFU Facebook and Twitter page with a link to the Original Blog Post, because I am also in the process of taking advantage of the offer. On the Original Blog Post, you will get a breakdown of the deal and how to take advantage of it. For the Alitalia Deal, I first saw it on Twitter via @TheFlightDeal who also had the original Blog Post on the offer.

3) Read The Comments Section

Once you have read the Original Blog Post, ALWAYS READ THE COMMENTS! The Comments Section is important because it summarizes the experiences other people have had with the offer. Via the Comments Section, you will see if a deal is dead, people are having trouble redeeming a code, or confirmation that the deal in fact works, etc. For example, the comments below are from View From The Wing’s Alitalia Post. As you can see, at the start of the Comments, the deal seemed to be working, but by the end Alitalia had caught on and the code wasn’t working anymore. By reading the Comments, you are able to quickly find out if the deal is still working or if it is dead.

 3. Check Out The Flyertalk Threads

While this isn’t a step you have to take, if you are looking for more information about a deal, you can normally find it on Flyertalk. Most of the information about these mistake fares originate from threads on FlyerTalk and MilePoint, and then get picked up by the Blogs. For the Alitalia $320 off deal, it started on Flyertalk. The full thread can be found here. These threads are useful because they typically have more up to date information about the deal than the Blogs, as well as tips on how people are taking advantage of the deal. For the Alitalia Deal, you had to book it thru Alitalia’s Japanese website which of course was in Japanese. The 2nd and 3rd post on Flyertalk told people how to translate the page from Japanese to English using the Google Chrome Browser. This information eventually trickled down as Comments on the blogs, but on the Flyertalk Thread, it was posted almost instantly after the deal went up.

 4. Book It

If everything (dates, terms and conditions, availability, etc) checks out, then it is time to pull the trigger. This is the hardest part for most people. I am not married, don’t have kids, and can work from anywhere, so I can book a ticket on a moment’s notice. However the reality is that most people have obligations with work, family, etc that makes it difficult to commit to deals without advance notice. My suggestion for mistake fares and glitches, is to always book the flights and then ask questions later. The reason for this is because almost all Airlines have a 24 Hour Cancellation policy. So even if you book something, go to work the next day and find out you can’t take any vacation, you can always cancel your reservation without charge. Unfortunately what most people normally do is see a deal, sleep on it, go to work the next day & check their vacation, and then try to book it when they get home. Sadly, these deals normally last for only 12 – 24 hours, so it is imperative that you book a deal when you see it otherwise it might be dead in a few hours.

Similarly, if you know you can get in on a deal but just are not sure on the exact dates, make multiple bookings! When United had the 4 Mile First Class glitch to Hong Kong, I knew I could go but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be living in Chicago or LA. Instead of saying, “I don’t know where I am going to be so I will just sit this one out”, I simply booked 4 tickets, 2 from Chicago and 2 from LA, all on different days. This way regardless of where I was living and the date, I could still get in on the deal. Worst case is that I would be out 16 Miles and $100 in taxes but at least one way or another, I would be going.

5. Sit Back & Relax

After you book a mistake fare or glitch, the best advice I can give is to RELAX!

Outside of not being able to pull the trigger, the next biggest mistake Beginners make is getting really nervous if the ticket they just bought is going to be valid.

The #1 rule for this is DO NOT CALL THE AIRLINES!

Most likely the Airlines don’t know about the glitch yet, so if you call and ask them if the $282 fare you just bought from JFK to Madrid is valid. They are probably going to say, “What Fare?” and start investigating.

As long as you have an eTicket or confirmation email, your ticket is valid unless the Airline explicitly emails you to tell you otherwise.

With the Delta $280 Chicago to Madrid flight I took in March 2011, we knew it sounded too good to be true, but Delta never emailed us to say anything, so we got on the plane and it was fine. Similarly with the whole United 4 Mile First Class fiasco, some people were smart enough to book those flights for the next day. Since they were issued tickets after they booked it, those people were able to fly the next day for 4 Miles in First Class, way before United even had a chance to correct the problem. Had those people booked the tickets and then called United to ask if their 4 Mile First Class tickets for the next day were valid, United would have known something was up and canceled their tickets right there.

While there is a lot of uncertainty with these deals, there are also quite a few built in consumer protections (especially for flights departing from the US thanks to the US Department of Transportation). If your revenue ticket gets issued and you have paid something for it, then it should be valid. In December 2010, there was a similar glitch in which Expedia Canada had a $200 off coupon that had no limitations, so people quickly figured out you could fly and stay in New York or Las Vegas for free. My Friend and I booked it thinking there was no way Expedia would honor the tickets, but they never said anything, so we again got on the plane and it was fine.

The point of this is that the world of mistake fares is crazy. You have a short amount of time to make a decision using limited information. I have lost count of how many of these travel deals have turned out to be travel duds and were cancelled, however there are also quite a few times I thought a deal was not going to be valid, and it worked out just fine.

Hopefully the next time there are any mistake fares or glitches, those of you that missed out on this one, will jump in.

I promise you that after you book your first mistake fare and feel the rush of getting a fare to Europe or wherever for less than $300, you will be hooked.

Regardless of whatever happens with a mistake fare, at the end of the day, just remember these words…

-Parag

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