If it’s not already obvious, I’m obsessed with airline travel. For myself I usually truly do enjoy the journey more than the destination. I rarely start planning a trip with a destination in mind. Instead, I scour the internet for flight deals. When I locate a deal that intrigues me I book it.
I’ve been doing this for a few years now and I’ve loved every minute of it! Yes, including the hours I spent in Doha curled up on a couch sick from Jet Lag and bad meal. I love chasing a deal and today specifically I was once again reminded of why I absolutely love the miles and points hobby.
Finding A Mistake Airfare
For years now my day usually starts the same way. I get up and one of the first things I do is load the FlyerTalk Mileage Run deals page. I review any new deals posted overnight by other members since the last time I checked the day before.
Next, I switch to the Premium Fare Deals page. To a novice the page probably doesn’t look like much. The titles are mostly semi-coded making it difficult for someone who’s not familiar the coding to read. Most of these deals don’t simply say “Finnair – Stockholm to Fort Meyers in Business Class for $1,200.” Instead the title reads “AY – ARN-RSW – J – $1,200.” If you know what you’re looking at you’ll understand.
After checking FlyerTalk I’ll then check Twitter as I follow a lot of other blogs and “flight deal” users who also post deals. Next, I’ll load google flights and begin clicking around the map to see what’s out there.
Much like most people launch Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat, I instead launch FlyerTalk Mileage Run Deals. The reason I do this is because every once in a while you find the Golden Ticket. While searching you find a deal that simply is too good not to book. It’s then that you realize you’ve just stumbled across another mistake airfare and it’s time to act. With mistake airfares the rule is to book now and ask questions later.
Air France La Premier Class (First Class) From Los Angeles To London
This morning started like any normal day. I got up and began looking at FlyerTalk. After a little while I got ready for work and boarding my bus to get to the office. While on the bus I launched FlyerTalk and checked once more for flight deals. As I scrolled through the deals I noticed a diamond in the rough. The title of the thread simply read “AF Business Class LAX – LHR $1515.”
When I saw that thread I immediately skipped over it. Air France is a SkyTeam airline and I try to only fly with OneWorld (American) so I don’t want to waste my annual airfare budget on a flight that wouldn’t help me qualify for AAdvantage elite status. However, for one reason or another I opened the thread. When I opened the thread I noticed an immediate response for a user named “callmedtop” that sent me into a panic.
F is pricing at $1,515 as well for SFO and LAX (not BOS or JFK, haven’t checked others). Time to hop on and see what happens!
One-ways working too for $637 (one direction) in case that is useful to anyone.
I had come across a First Class mistake fare and it was time to book.
Booking An Air France $13,000 First Class Ticket For $637
After reading the above post from “callmedtop” I immediately launched google flights. I began searching dates that made sense. After a few minutes I settled on October 5, 2018. Once I selected the dates I clicked the link which took me to the Air France webpage to book. While on the bus I whipped out my wallet and began rapidly typing my credit card information into the page. Before long I reached the submit prompt and submitted my payment. After a few minutes Air France sent me an email with a confirmation number! I had done it, I had booked yet another mistake fare.
I hit confirm right as I reached my bus stop for work. I then walked from the bus stop to the office extremely happy with my accomplishment. Then, as I’ve done in the past, I logged into my computer at work and did the only thing that made sense; I booked a second trip.
When booking the second trip I thought it was funny that I could choose to add a bag for nearly 1/3 of the cost of the entire trip…
I Tried To Book A Third
After booking two of these fares I began searching for a third. Normally I’d stop after two, but these fares are 1) fully refundable and 2) mistakes. I knew the odds of me actually taking this trip was virtually zero. For that reason I went ahead and started looking at another set of dates that could work. As I searched I noticed the availability started to dry up. Then as I clicked on available days the fare quickly changed to the actual $13,000 price.
At this point I knew the fare was dead and I didn’t bother pursing any more trips. It’s worth mentioning that the price did remain on Online Travel Agencies for a little while longer, but soon enough those options dried up too.
Then I Waited For The Inevitable
In 2015 the US Department of Transportation ruled that airlines that issue mistake fares that touch US soil don’t have to honor mistake fares if the mistake is apparent. I’m sure the wording is much more specific, but that was the gist of the ruling. Ever since then it’s been hit or miss as to if airlines will honor mistake fares or not.
When Qatar Airways published their incredible business class fares from Vietnam last year the airline ended up honoring those fares. In that case the tickets ended up costing about $620 each while historically the round trip prices were closer to $3,700. One could argue that those fares were clearly a mistake, but either way the airline honored the fare, Thanks Qatar!
With these fares there was no denying a mistake was made. For that reason and a few historical data points from other SkyTeam airlines, it was safe to assume the airline would cancel these fares. Sure enough, 7 hours after booking, Air France canceled my first of two reservations. The itinerary simply vanished into thin air. Then, just now, the second trip also vanished from my Air France mobile app. I’m not surprised by these cancellations by any means, but I’m obviously disappointed.
Should Airlines Have To Honor Mistake Fares
Obviously I think the answer is yes, but I have a fairly interesting take on mistake fares. I don’t think airlines should be forced to honor the fares by a governing body, but I do think they should still choose to honor them. The reason I think the airlines should honor the fares comes down to PR. I think it’s simply great PR to honor a mistake fare. For starters, it get’s people talking about your airline. You have the initial publicity that comes with a few people jumping on these incredible first class sales.
Next, when the people who book these flights actually fly with the airline they’ll naturally rave about the experience. This gets people who normally would never even consider flying First Class on Air France to at least talk about it. Then next time someone is considering booking a transatlantic flight maybe they’d consider booking a business class seat on Air France after hearing about a friend’s awesome First Class experience.
I say this because this exact situation happened after my Qatar Airways business class sale. I got back from the trip and told several people how much I loved Qatar Airways business class. Then, a few weeks later I got a text from a friend who told me that they upgraded their economy class Qatar Airways ticket to business class. I’m not sure they would have given the airline that extra revenue had it not been for my extremely positive prior experience.
I realize I got a bit off topic, but the fact remains, days like today remind me why I love this hobby. There’s something so exciting about chasing a mistake airfare. First you have to locate it. Once you find it you have to figure out a way to possibly make it work. Then, you have to try to click-through to the airline to see if it’s bookable.
If you’re lucky you’ll be able to book it, but in many cases the airlines’ webpage will time out and you won’t be able to. Then, after all that work you receive a confirmation number to a flight you’ll likely never take. During those next few hours you begin to think about where you’ll go, what you’ll do. It’s a lot like fantasizing about all the things you’d buy after purchasing a lotto ticket. It truly is one of the things I love most about this hobby.
I’m disappointed Air France dropped my (and others’) reservations without any written notice. I suspect I’ll receive an email in the coming days explaining the situation. I obviously doubt the airline is going to honor the mistake First Class fare, but it sure would be nice if they did.