NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — For travelers, almost nothing is more exciting than snagging a good deal on airfare.
Discounts and promotions can lead to lower costs, but there’s also another way consumers can stumble upon low prices: mistake fares posted by the airline in error.
“A mistake airfare would be the airline tries to file a $500 fare and accidentally files it as a $50 fare,” said Rick Seaney, the CEO of FareCompare.com, an airfare comparison website.
Seaney said he’s seen his share of mistake fares.
“I’ve even seen mistakes one time where United was trying to match Southwest Airlines’ one-way fare, but they changed their round-trip fares to the same price. Essentially the price was 50 percent off,” Seaney said.
Mistake fares are a lovely surprise, but they are rare.
“It’s less about mistakes today,” Seaney said. “There’s not going to be $500 fare for $5, but if Spirit Airlines has a $9 fare, is that a mistake? Probably not. Because they have a $9 fare club.”
Instead, Seaney said people looking for cheaper deals will have better luck using workarounds.
Seaney said one way to get good deals is through “virtual interlining,” which means booking flights on multiple carriers.
For example, say a traveler is eyeing a ticket costing $800 on a non-stop flight from Dallas to Honolulu.
Seaney said you could buy a cheap ticket on Southwest to Los Angeles, then take an Alaska Airline flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu.
“The combination of the two for your entire round trip could be $400, that’s half price,” he said.
Websites such as kiwi.com specialize in this type of ticketing.
Booking a family vacation? Splitting the purchase or buying one ticket at a time can lower the cost of your total.
“There’s a glitch in the reservation system that requires everyone on a reservation to be at the same price,” Seaney said. So, try buying the tickets at slightly different times or on different days.
The U.S. Department of Transportation rules allow family members to sit together regardless of the number of reservations.
OPEN JAW TICKETS
An open jaw ticket allows passengers to arrive at one city and depart from another.
Southlake resident Dan Rao said he saved time and money on his trip to Australia this summer.
“I was able to get an open jaw, round trip, very convenient airline [ticket],” he said. “Per ticket, I was able to save about $600, and for a family of four, it is pretty substantial.”
Rao said he got to see more of the country because he could travel to multiple places without spending additional money to return to his original destination.
He said the strategy freed up money for him to splurge on excursions and hotels.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL
Seaney said the best time to travel is between the last three weeks of January and Valentine’s Day.
The best time to book a domestic flight is usually Tuesday at about 3 p.m. eastern time, according to Seaney. That’s because many airlines release weekly sales early on Tuesday.
Seaney said people can also sign up to receive alerts. Here’s a list of websites that look for mistake fares and other good deals: