Just For Laughs: The Seven Emotional Stages Of A Mistake Fare

Filed Under: Humor

The last week has seen a flurry of activity with several amazing ‘special’/mistake fares coming and going.

Each time a fare like this comes along, there’s usually a roller coaster of emotions.

Way back in 2005 a list of the various stages of these fares was created on FlyerTalk and every time I go through this roller coaster myself I always think of these stages and have a giggle, as they still ring so true.

The stages illustrate (with a tongue firmly in cheek!) how those who are considered ‘newbies’ (as they haven’t booked a mistake fare before) react, versus those seasoned ‘pros,’ who book every one of these type of fares they can.

So here are the stages, updated for 2019 and slightly adapted for OMAAT readers.

I hope this brings a smile to your face!

1. Discovery

A special fare hits OMAAT with a screaming headline like ‘AMAZING DEAL,’ or ‘HURRY: BOOK NOW!’

Newbies check their leave balances and try and see if their boss is available to speak with that day about time off, text friends about the idea of a trip away (hoping for an immediate response), and start to look at accommodation options, weather forecasts and positioning flights.

They also try and clear their schedules for the next hour while they get their head around the offer, airline/product, routing and try and make the fare work for them.

Pros drop what they are doing and immediately book the fare without checking with anyone else first.

2. Excitement

There is a flurry of communication as newbies and pros both complete their bookings and share their trip details on social media. Plenty of ‘hope it sticks’ and ‘got an amazing deal’ type comments.

Calculations are made showing just how much was saved off the standard revenue fare price.

Those who didn’t see the fare at the time ask how on earth friends or family managed to book something so cheap. Those who missed out may declare that there’s ‘no way it’ll be honoured.’

The special fare is pulled and the waiting game begins.

3. Stress

Newbies frantically check that their credit card has been billed, double check their emails for confirmations and search for ticket numbers, and attempt to select seats as well as researching which loyalty program they should credit the flights to.

The current DoT position is reviewed.

Pros sit back, relax, and pour themselves a celebratory drink.

4. Happiness

Initial contentment sets in — ticket numbers and confirmation emails are found. Leave requests are submitted, friends/families/spouses are informed of their unexpected travel plans, more bragging on social media.

Newbies make non refundable accommodation and positioning flight bookings for the trip.

Pros pour themselves another drink, sit back, and relax.

For now, all is well.

5. More Stress

Rumours of individual ticket cancellations and previous management decisions not to honour the fares start to surface.

Newbies fret and spread these rumours far and wide, and lose sleep about whether their fare will be cancelled.

They curse themselves for booking non-refundable hotel accommodation and positioning flights and start to research just how non-refundable they are.

DoT rules and remedies are discussed at length. Legal advice is given by non lawyers.

Pros pour themselves another drink, sit back, relax, and wait (perhaps with another drink).

6. Reality

A decision about whether the fares will or will not be honoured is finally made and spreads like wildfire.

7a. Joy

The fare is honoured. Everyone who booked thanks a higher power for their amazing luck.

DoT is forgotten about.

Those who did not book (especially because they didn’t think the fare would be honoured) feel immediate regret, jealousy of those who did, curse their bad luck and vow to book the next fare that comes along.

(This was me after the Cathay Pacific Vietnam fares were honoured even though I had no plans or desire to go to either Vietnam or the US!)


7b. Hostility

The fare is not honoured and passengers are either refunded or downgraded.

Immediate threats of legal action are made by both newbies and pros.

Revenge is sought through any means imaginable, from telling anyone who will listen that ‘they will never fly that airline again,’ through to researching which would be the most appropriate court to bring a class action against the airline.

The airline receives a barrage of complaints on social media.

Changes to DoT are again discussed.

Bottom line

Special/mistake fares are one of my favourite parts of this ‘hobby.’ They’re exciting, entertaining, and for those who make it through to Stage 7a, can be incredibly rewarding.

For anyone hoping for the next mistake/special fare, please get set for the next roller coaster when it happens!

Hope this made you smile. ; )

Have you experienced these emotions during a mistake fare?

  1. FUNNY article on getting the super discounted fare 🙂 It also applies to credit card approval.
    Right now I’m going thru similar feelings seeing if Chase approves my latest credit card application. I want my sign on bonus….NOW! LOL! If they would give me a yes or no, I can move on to my next application with a different bank to continue to build my points empire. This is all a lot of fun and I win most of the time as I try to be prudent.
    Sites like OMAAT, and others are key to keeping ahead of the game and getting the most freebies that I can get. Thanks Dave and Lucky.

  2. This is so true lol! I booked the Cathay fare but it was for a family member and they acted the same way as mentioned above. I personally didn’t book it because it became to expensive to position there.

  3. Nice that many people will have the opportunity to test the excellent Cathay service in First. I fly them regularly in First (paid only no error fare or miles) and I know what I am talking about. In HKG, I recommend to try the cabanas, and indulge in some delicacies in the Pier if time allows it. Don’t miss the Dan Dan as well

  4. There was someone on flyee talk who did take BA to the UK small claims court (money claim on line) over their cancellation of a mistake fare.

    Although they won the argument they ended up losing on a technicality in that (IIRC) it was after the flight was due to take place so there was no remedy available i.e. the Judge couldn’t force BA to fly the passenger

  5. This is my 3rd one after United from Munich to SFO and Delta from Auckland to Oakland, both in 2017. For this one tho, I felt really calm the whole way after booking since I was so convinced it wouldn’t be honored. This one definitely proves that you really might as well book anything that comes up, except possibly for on BA and Air France who have cancelled all their mistakes so far.

  6. Pros drop what they are doing and immediately book the fare without checking with anyone else first. I’ll take that as a complement.

  7. And if it was never declared that it will be honored, or if its a fuel dump or other kind of trick, then there is stage
    online check in. if it works, thats good. if the system doesn’t let you OLCI, then you either just need a visa/passport check from an agent, or there was a sequence check made, and they know you didn’t pay something.
    actually arriving to the airport, and smiling to the checkin agent, like just being an everyday customer, and finally receiving your boarding card. Or maybe after a few question you just tell the same story, like “I don’t know what are those extra segments at the itinerary, I just have a good friend who works for an OTA, and he booked it for me, because its cheap”. “Oh yeah, I am going to that 3rd world country next month, to fly that nonstop domestic 30min flight. Its corporate travel”
    finally taking your seat, and worry a little bit about, if maybe they will kick you out at the return leg. But you just ask the FA for a double whisky on the rocks, so don’t really care.

    I’ll just have a fuel dumped flying next week, on a carrier I never flew before, so I’m excited if they will refuse boarding or not.

  8. I tried booking the MH F class fare yesterday. But I guess they were quick on the uptake of the massive f up they had done so got locked out 🙁

  9. Good to see ya back Endre! A lot of us can now say “we fly on paid F ticket and on CX” so good to see you upgrading that you fly on non error F tickets 😀 You are my hero and I hope to meet you in The Pier some day on my economy ticket booked with Avios to TPE with Emerald invitation in hold!

  10. Here’s the reality for some (not mine, but saw on social media), that bought that ex Vietnam mistake fare. Wow, I got the USD 800 F fare from DAD to JFK! Opps, I have to get a US visa. Wow, the process is a PITA. Opps, I can’t travel on the dates that I booked. Wow, changing the dates will require a huge price adjustment. So much for that.

  11. Have to add: 8. Oh crap, they honored it. Now I really do have to spend this money and plan this trip! 🙂

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