It feels great to get a fantastic mistake fare – you can travel for a fraction of what “regular people” pay. However, as is common with mistake fares, the carrier may cancel the ticket prior to departure, or the fare is ‘phantom’ in the first instance, meaning you couldn’t actually book the ticket. Here’s a trick I’ve used a couple times to book mistake fares or phantom fares, and almost guarantees that your fare won’t be cancelled, or actually allows you to book a phantom fare: price matching.
Priceline offers an excellent price match guarantee for flights – you simply book the full fare/non-mistaken fare on Priceline’s website (or on another travel agency that offers a price match guarantee). After booking, you call Priceline (1-800-774-2354) and ask for a price match. They’ll process the match over the phone. What they do is go to the website of the carrier/travel agency that you want to match, and then they’ll verify the fare. I’ve never had an agent actually try to book a fare from another website, meaning that if the fare is phantom but the mistaken website allows you to go to the credit card page, it should work. Once verified, they’ll issue a refund for the difference. Priceline gives you 24 hours to cancel your ticket for free, so if you are unable to get a price match, simply cancel for a full refund.
My understanding of the process is that Priceline is paying the carrier the full fare of the ticket, and is absorbing the difference between the mistaken/phantom fare. To that end, the carrier has no incentive to cancel the ticket, as they’re being fully paid. Priceline (or the matching travel agency) would be bound to the terms of the match as a separate contract from the contract of carriage, where claiming mistake in contract would be highly improbable.
Now, there are some obvious caveats to this trick. First, don’t try matching a zero dollar or completely ridiculous mistake fare – there’s a good chance Priceline wouldn’t entertain the match. Second, I wouldn’t price match directly with a carrier, as Priceline may call the carrier in order to confirm the fare, which would alert the carrier of the mistake and potentially end the fare.
Have you ever used a price matching policy to book a mistake or phantom fare?