Technological Advances Could Render Error Fares Extinct

We’ve all heard the stories of passengers purchasing airline tickets for next to nothing. A handful of travelers were lucky enough to find an error fare and took full advantage of it. However, error fares are few and far between, and new technological advances could render error fares extinct in the future.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300
Every now and then, passengers can still find great error fare deals. Photo: Wikimedia.

What are error fares?

Error fares are exactly what their name states they are. They are basically fares issued in error or, in other words, a pricing mistake made by the airlines. According to Travel Pirates, they are usually the result of a glitch like a technical issue or human error, such as data entry errors.

This could be as simple as entering a one instead of a nine or omitting a zero. All of a sudden, we have a fare that is significantly cheaper than it was intended to be. If you’re lucky, error fares have been known to be as much as 90% cheaper than a ticket that is priced properly.

Cathay Pacific First Class
Some passengers have been able to purchase first-class tickets for less than an economy-class ticket. Photo: Cathay Pacific.

What are airlines doing to eliminate error fares?

For the passenger, error fares represent a significant price reduction compared to a regular price ticket. But for the airline, they also represent a significant loss. Accordingly, airlines want to reduce or, even better, eliminate them completely.

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As reported by Point Me, there is good news for the airlines. ATPCO, an Airline Tariff Publishing Company which stores and distributes almost 90% of the airfares worldwide, has implemented a new feature. The new feature called “Suppression of Sales” allows airlines in the United States and Canada to cancel error fares in as little 15 minutes, while international airlines can cancel error fares in around an hour.

In the past, airlines had to contact each Global Distribution System individually after noticing an error fare or wait until ATPCO updated its FareManager system in order to get it corrected. However, FareManager only gets updated four times a day. As a result, there is often plenty of time for passengers to purchase error fare tickets and save a lot of money on their travel.

As a matter of fact, people took full advantage of error fares published by Cathay Pacific earlier this year. According to CNN, due to a mistake, Cathay Pacific sold some of its first-class and business class tickets at 95% off. Typically, passengers would pay thousands of dollars for first-class or business class tickets from Vietnam to North America, but due to the error, they were able to purchase round-trip tickets for as low as $675.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777
Some Cathay Pacific passengers got the deal of a lifetime earlier this year. Photo: Cathay Pacific.

Unlike some other airlines, Cathay Pacific did honor the error fare tickets and lost quite a bit of money as a result.

Overall

Even though error fares do still happen occasionally, they are going to become a thing of the past. It appears that ATPCO’s technological advances will render error fares extinct, if it works as it should.

Have you ever purchased an error fare ticket? Share your experience with us.

2 comments
  1. Sorry, this is nice but unnecessary. An error fate should never get entered by any airline. A simple front end for entering fares (and this updating the backend database) with logic built into it to know what a valid fare is (based on distance or airport pairs) could pop-up a window to make the operator realize he/she is about to enter a fare that’s outside the expected range. You could even add a 2nd level, perhaps a special code (that only supervisors know) to commit the transaction.

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