How To Get A Flight Deal

Flight Deal pinterest

The chance to fly somewhere for a fraction of the usual price appeals to everyone. Even the spontaneity of a random destination, which you may have never even considered before, can get your pulse racing. We all love a flight deal, but what exactly causes an error fare or flight deal and how can you find them?

A good example. We are headed to South Africa in a few weeks. We paid $484 USD after taxes, per person, round trip from New York to Johannesburg. The normal cost of the trip is double or triple that.

Prices normally:

flight deal south africa

Our flight deal error fare price (for security this isn’t our exact flight):

flight deal south africa

How Can I Find These?

Our favorite way to keep up on what deals are going on is Let There Be Travel. They have a Facebook group that posts daily flight deals, error fare, and event the occasional hotel/car rental deal. What makes it even better? You can request a deal. What?! YES. Submit a post asking for the best price on somewhere you want to go like this:

I’m looking for a deal from Los Angeles (LAX) to Europe (Italy/Rome preferably) and my dates are flexible between March and April. I want to be there at least 10 days. Can you help?

They will respond in minutes with a deal, prices, details and if there is no deal, they will tell you the best times to fly, what other deals might work for you, or they will alert you when a deal comes up that matches what you are looking for. SWEET!

Look for Airline Tweets

A low fare could pop up at any minute of the day or week, so shop around, follow tweets — because the best deals, even if they’re good for travel over a long period, last only a few hours — or sometimes minutes. We also search the hashtag #FlightDeal often, and follow @LetThereBTravel ….and you can see why:


Sign Up for Alerts

First, sign up for AirFareWatchDog’s fare alerts and as many airline email newsletters as you can. They will send you cheap flight deals based on your home airport.

Let Web Sites Do The Hard Work

Another site we love is SkyScanner, which is perfect for flexible travelers. By typing “everywhere” into the destination search and selecting when you want to travel, the site will show the cheapest options out there – from New York, fares to the Caribbean right now are under $300 and there’s even an option to Ireland in the $400 range.

Know When to Buy

While searching for deals, remember that traveling on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are the cheapest days to fly, while Friday and Sunday are the most expensive. The most cost-efficient time to fly is also first thing in the morning and red-eye, followed by lunch time and dinner-hour flights.

The best time to purchase an airline ticket, however, is Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET, as discounted flights hit the sites. Most of these specials are pulled by Thursday. Avoid purchasing airfare a week before, during, or a week after holidays. Prices tend to be higher than normal even if you aren’t traveling during those times.

International airfare is also more pricey thanks to mergers and less seat availability.

How Do Flight Deals Happen?

Self-Dump aka: Fuel Dump

Because the fuel surcharge component was added after commercial airline reservation systems were created, it left the possibility of glitches/errors occurring. Airlines are aware that errors can occur on their complex, outdated systems, however, the cost of constantly finding and fixing them far outweigh their potential losses.

These errors typically occur when more than one airline is present on the same ticket. Airlines that don’t have interline fuel surcharge agreements split revenue on the basis of IATA’s BSP settlement tables. Those tables are country-specific. Some routes, on some airlines, aren’t fully updated correctly in some country BSP tables.

Many flight deal enthusiasts such as Let There Be Travel try what is known as “Fuel Dumping”. This is when they intentionally pair specific airlines together on the same ticket in the hope that the fuel surcharge is dumped. The Fuel Surcharge of the long-haul flights are “dumped” by the presence of a smaller, cheaper flight. The short flight with LAN Airlines has partially eliminated the fuel surcharge on the long-haul Lufthansa flights.

Here is an example of an error fare/fuel dump/self-dump from December. Chicago to Abu Dhabi for $386.80.

error fare flight deal


OTA Glitch

Sometimes Online Travel Agencies (OTA) can be the cause of an error fare. The unintentional discounted tickets are usually the consequence of a missing fuel surcharge, however, it is not necessarily “dumped” with the inclusion of another airline on the ticket. A glitch on the OTA systems can simply cause this to occur with very little understanding why. The main indication as to whether the error fare is in fact an OTA Glitch, is if the fare cannot be replicated elsewhere. This error fare from Washington to Istanbul for $405.80 is a good example of an OTA glitch.

error fare flight deal



Things To Remember

Jump on the deal right away. You really can’t wait, you don’t know whether deals will be gone in 5 hours or 5 minutes. Don’t wait until your spouse is out of a meeting, or try to get 5 family members all traveling together at the same flights. Don’t spend an hour discussing what you’d want to do while you’re in Singapore, or whether you really need to include an additional segment to Kuala Lumpur. You have to jump right away.  Think now, plan later.

What is considered a “deal”? We consider a deal something that meets one criterion — the deal must cost 6 cents per mile or less. So, for a nonstop flight from D.C. to Paris, it’ll would have to cost $463 or less ($463 divided by 7,722 miles roundtrip = equals 6 cents). We try and aim for lower.

These things are usually refundable. Most of the time, even non-refundable airfares are cancellable for 24 hours. And most often airlines have been more than happy to refund non-refundable tickets rather than have to honor an expensive mistake. Get in right way, don’t try to arrange the perfect trip. That’s different from how we normally plan, but so are these opportunities. Worst case scenario we have faced? Settling for airline credit.

Don’t book non-refundable travel plans around your deal. We believe it’s best to take a wait and see attitude on these things rather than fight for reimbursement. Just give it about 5 business days before doing any additional planning to see if the deal is 100% good to go.

Don’t call the airline. This is the one thing that will most upset your fellow frequent travelers. Most of the time calling a customer service agent won’t actually make a difference in getting a deal pulled early, but it might, and really there’s almost never an urgent need to contact a travel provider right away. You don’t actually need seat assignments now, before you even know if your tickets are going to be honored. Let the deal run its course. Don’t be responsible, even in the remotest chance, for alerting the powers that be about what’s going on. Don’t be that guy.

Should you call once a deal is gone? Usually it’s best to wait and see what’s happening, since talking to a customer service agent isn’t going to do much good, the reservation agents probably won’t know what’s going on before you do. And having anyone touch your reservation could present problems, a rogue agent might cancel you and there’ll be little you can do to reconstruct the trip. Once in a great while making contact can be helpful. After the November 2005 currency conversion error at Expedia where the Hilton Tokyo was being sold for $2 ($3 for the Executive Floor), folks that emailed in and got written confirmation that their bookings were in order had those bookings honored while many who had not written in had their bookings cancelled.

Don’t threaten to sue. The Department of Transportation has new rules that more or less require airlines to honor paid fares once ticketed at the price quoted. Getting in on a deal like this is buying an almost free lottery ticket. If the airline honors it, you’ve got an amazing once (maybe twice) in a lifetime travel opportunity. If they don’t, you’re really no worse off (maybe just little sad). Screaming at a reservation agent has rarely done any good.

Should you share a deal? The more people that know about a deal, the higher volume it is, the quicker it’s going to be noticed and get pulled. Airlines have people assigned to monitor lots of flight deal sites, so they don’t stay secret. They don’t monitor Let There Be Travel on Facebook yet.

But doesn’t letting more people in on a deal reduce the chance that it’ll be honored? Sometimes. The less expensive it is, the less likely they are to honor. On the other hand, there can also be strength in numbers, with the more people involved the more people potentially angry, complaining, raising a stink, so the greater downside to a airline or hotel in not honoring a deal.

Where are we headed after South Africa? Italy….and for free. How? Points and miles (more on that next time). In the meantime, get in depth info on how to search for flight deals yourself, and how to used points and miles to travel for free in our e-book. Have questions? Leave them in the comments below and we get back to ya!


Flight Deal pinterest

How to get a flight deal

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