I’m writing this from 36,000 feet in the air, sitting in seat 3A on a Qatar Airways flight headed to Doha. Breada and I just wrapped up three weeks in South Africa, a country we’ve wanted to visit for years but has always been a little out of reach. We’re flying business class, which is pretty standard for us now (I sound like such a snob, I know), but this time it’s a little different. This time we actually paid for our flights!
Don’t let that last sentence fool you. Travel hacking may have spoiled us rotten, but we still keep to a low daily budget and try not to forget where we came from. We’re not rich and likely never be. So how did we manage to book a set of flights that goes for roughly $5,000 roundtrip?
We booked a mistake fare!
Technology has come a long way when it comes to automating systems, but behind those systems is still someone inputing data. Every now and again that data gets input wrong. A zero accidentally gets dropped, numbers get inverted, or any number of things can happen. Every now and again this will happen with flight prices. Most of the time they’ll get fixed quickly and nobody will even notice. Sometimes though, word gets out and an opportunity arises.
In our case I was sitting on my computer one night last year reading my usual set of travel blogs (OMAAT is one of my favorites btw!) when a post came up that I couldn’t ignore. The deal just so happened to be out of Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) to almost any airport in the world via Qatar Airways business class. Breada and I were already planning on being in Vietnam in a few months anyway, so this was perfect.
In the case of mistake fares you have to act fast because they can get pulled any minute. So where did we want to go ? Well, everywhere! That’s no help. Where do we want to go that normally we’d have trouble going to? One place immediately came to mind to both of us : South Africa. We picked some dates that we thought would work, broke out a credit card (Chase Sapphire Reserve!) and it was booked! I’d say from the time we learned about the fare to the time we booked is was about ten minutes. Like I said, you have to act fast or it may disappear.
Just because these mistake fares get posted doesn’t mean they’ll be honored. It’s usually about 50/50 on whether or not it gets honored, so the biggest piece of advice (behind book fast!) is don’t book any non-refundable travel plans until you hear something from the airline. Luckily for us, the mistake fares were honored!
So how much was the flight?
$555 per person roundtrip!
That’s even cheaper than the economy price, which regularly goes for about $700-1000 roundtrip.
What makes the deal even better is the number of miles we’ll earn on the flight. We had a few different options, but opted to credit the flight to American Airlines Advantage program. When this flight is done we’ll earn about 15,000 Advantage miles each, worth roughly $225 but potentially much more depending on how they’re used. Even better, we’ll be just shy of American Airlines gold status, which according to The Points Guy is worth about $970.
“So how do I find mistake fares?”
The key is to stay on top of the latest deals. There are some pretty good websites out there that cover this sort of thing. My go-to for amazing flight deals is Secret Flying. They have flight deals for all over the world, but many of them are on specific dates or specific routings. You’ll need to book fast, but this is a great spot to start your search.
So there you have it! We’re now paying members of the business class elite! It may be awhile before it happens again. That is, unless we catch another mistake fare!