Travel | January 11, 2023 4:39 pm

New Airline Software Might Mean the End of Mistake Fares

Gone are the days of snagging a $9,500 roundtrip flight for just $500

man sitting with laptop computer with application search air ticket screen in room
Getty

As a colleague once said, “Mistake fares are the flights equivalent of Best Buy listing a TV for 20 bucks by accident.” Unfortunately, a new software is making them increasingly harder to find all the time.

But first thing’s first: what the hell is mistake fare?

According to travel blog God Save the Points Gilbert Ott, mistake fare isn’t always a mistake. In actuality, it’s often a publicity stunt, or a quick cash grab. That said, sometimes airfares are filed in haste, which (as I know from experience) very often results in errors. Or, more specifically, typos (i.e. $9,500 fares published as $0,500). It’s where, as Ott points out, the term fat finger deals comes from.

Further, because historically it’s involved contacting vendors (i.e. Expedia) among other things, it’s taken hours — if not days — to correct mistake fares, giving travelers ample time to cash in.

“Amusingly, new fares could only be loaded for international flights once a day, so if a fare released at 6:01AM and the reset was 6:00AM, it was effectively stuck out in the open for a painful 23 hours and 59 minutes,” Ott writes. Needless to say, a lot of $9,500 seats can be sold for $500 in a day.

Unfortunately for the opportunistic travelers out there (myself being one), FareManager — the company “nearly 90% of the worlds airline fares are pushed out and managed under” — has launched a new feature called “Suppressor Of Sales,” or more appropriately, “SOS.” And apparently it does exactly what it purports to: Suppressor of Sales allows any fare in the US or Canada to be taken down within just 15 minutes and all international fares can be taken down within an hour or less.

“[I]t means that unless your finger is on the proverbial flight deal trigger, any actual ‘error’ fares will be extremely hard to get in on, unless you’re super fast and ask any questions late,” Ott writes. “By the time it’s become public knowledge, or at least on a page that shares amazing deals, chances are it will be borderline impossible to book.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean you might not still get lucky here and there. And luckily we’ll still have the occasional publicity stunt, or cash grab, to look forward to.