When looking for cheap flights or hotels you’ll realise the term ‘error fare’ keeps appearing time and time again. Even I use these offers quite often – you can find a flight that costs just a fraction of what it would normally cost, for example. You’ll often find these cheap error fare offers with hotels or package holidays too, which are suddenly and unexpectedly able to be booked for an unbelievable price. Booking them is definitely worth it!

Today I’m going to clear up these three questions for you:

What is an error fare?
What should I do if I find an error fare?
What rights do I have if my booking has been cancelled?


What is an error fare?

An error fare is exactly that – a mistake with the pricing. When setting the price of a flight, for instance, a mistake can be made. Take this for example – a travel agency has flights from Germany to New York. This flight normally costs €440 per person. When the price was entered there may have been a technical problem – the price is missing a zero. Suddenly the flights cost only €44: a crazy price that’s hard to believe! You’ll often find these error fares when booking ‘open jaw flights’.  These are return flights that fly from London Heathrow to Miami, for example, and then return from Miami to Manchester – in other words, the airport of origin or destination are not the same.

What should I do if I find an error fare?

The most important thing of all when you find an error fare is: under no circumstances should you contact the travel agency or airline! These offers are only so cheap because the provider itself hasn’t noticed that the pricing error exists. As soon as a customer calls and asks whether the price is real or not, they’ll of course realise their mistake and in all likelihood correct the prices in the quickest time possible. Then it’s just tough luck – the offer can no longer be booked.

Of course, after you’ve successfully booked the offer there’s the chance that the bargain you just snapped may be cancelled. However error fares often don’t attract the attention of providers due to the number of tickets, hotel rooms or holidays booked, which means that you will have just gotten your hands on a first class bargain.

That said, if you are unlucky and your error fare is nevertheless discovered, you’ll just have to hope that the airline, hotel or travel agency won’t cancel it. Then you’ll get a great flight, hotel or holiday offer for a fraction of the original price and you’ll be basking in the sun just a few days later!

What rights do I have if my error fare booking is cancelled?

Now, this is where things start to get a little complicated. There have been many famous examples of major airlines offering unbelievably cheap tickets – take United Airlines for for example. Due to a currency conversion error it was possible to book tickets from London to Newark for an incredible $50, which was no doubt snapped up by many eager bargain hunters. Unfortunately the airline discovered it and immediately voided all bookings and refused to process the payments, saying in their statement that they refused to acknowledge and accept the error fares due to people “[taking] advantage of the situation”.

Unfortunately what this means is that it’s very much down to the individual situation and which airline or provider you’re booking with. There is no real fixed law surrounding error fares as the legislation involved will vary depending on which country the companies operate from. However, I advise to save all correspondence you have between you and the provider, and to read carefully the reasons they give for their cancellation. If you’re really unsure, then you can always discuss it with a lawyer. Another really important bit of advice I have: don’t rush and book a hotel if you’re relying on an error fare to get you to your destination! Otherwise there’s always a chance that the airline may revoke your plane tickets – only book your accommodation once you’re absolutely certain it’s safe to go ahead.