There have been quite a few mistake fares the past few months. Some have gotten more press than others and I think it's important for my readers to have an idea of what has happened.
A few Sherpa readers who have taken action on these great deals have been disappointed with those that were not honored. It seems to help perpetuate the theory that, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." This is counter to something I've always said (no I haven't) "Those who think everything is too good to be true, never have anything too good!" I've definitely never said that before but maybe it will catch on.
Some mistake fares and discount codes have been cancelled (however legal or ethical this may or may not be), but several have also been honored. The ones that are not honored seem to get more attention and burn otherwise hopeful travelers. Don't get discouraged, you might be surprised by the results.
Here is my scorecard since May 2012:
Myanmar business fares selling for 1/12th their normal price ($445 instead of $5,500) - I got the original heads up from Matthew at UPGRD.com. This was due to an exchange rate adjustment and then accidentally reversed the math from what it would normally cost. Though it was initially cancelled, I found this post, sent a complaint to customer relations and they were honored. The Sherpa and Sherpstress adjusted our entire return leg back to the states because of it, and you can find more about that crazy journey in this post.
United's website started selling 4 mile awards to Hong Kong plus taxes. It's been well documented here, and in an upcoming post. United did at least show the price it should have been and has a couple of reasons why this is muddy water but their handling of it was slow and generally poor. The Department of Transportation is currently investigating whether United broke the law by cancelling the tickets.
Travelocity, and the NFB both publicly tweeted a discount code for $200 off packages. Discount packages have been given out in the past with great results, so we booked a trip to see a family friend and earn some miles/points. They cancelled these but could have done it better. Had Travelocity stated that the offer code was for attendees of the National Foundation of Blindness conference and that my booking was taking away from their members opportunity to travel, I would have cancelled without question. But that's not what happened. They sent erroneous cancellation notices saying initially bookers wouldn't get their money back. They then retracted that, 10 days later the Sherpa is still awaiting a refund and not too happy about it. I'll think twice about using Travelocity in the future, and recommending them to others.
The US to Tel Aviv for $300! This is usually a $900-1,600 ticket, so it was a steal. The mistake occurred when a partner of El Al (Israel's state airline) entered fuel surcharges incorrectly. Not only did El Al honor the deal, but they also allowed bookers to pay $75 if they wanted to switch to the direct flight! Had I booked I would have paid the additional cash to move to the direct flight simply because it would be on an El Al aircraft (instead of a partner, reducing El Al's cost). The extra $75 is a worthy reward for such a great customer experience. The Sherpa and Sherpstress shopped for this deal but did not book. By the time I was ready to post on the deal, the error was corrected. El Al has gone on a bit of a social media run though on the back of this honoring and I think they are doing it really well, follow them on Twitter to see more, right now they are giving away items on Facebook - really took the error in stride!
Not so bad, 2/4 is pretty good! While the winning deals were destination specific, Myanmar is one of the last untouched countries in Southeast Asia (it's been closed to outsiders for 20+ years) and I'd love to see Israel. There was also this one additional mistake fare that was honored on Korean Airlines last year from the US to Palau for about 1/3 of the price it should have been. They ended up honoring the tickets in the end and the DoT has since released this new regulation that protects consumers from price increases meaning you should definitely consider purchasing a mistake fare, as Gary Leff says, it's a "free lottery ticket".
To be very clear, I am well aware that dishonored is not the proper term, but let's just call it my... writer's privilege.