How I Flew to Italy for $130 – With No Credit Cards

By Zim Ugochukwu


It was a beautiful Saturday morning in November when I got the notification from The Flight Deal: roundtrip fares all over the world for dirt cheap. Houston to South Africa for $400, DC to Israel and Mumbai for $285. I started to sweat. It was like the frequent travelers’ Black Friday. Could this be true? And if so, how did this happen?

A Glitch Fare

Every so often, an airline (or a booking engine) will mess up and price certain flights incredibly low. This glitch in the matrix typically doesn’t last long (between 1-3 hours) but airlines typically honor the glitch.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 8.33.54 AM

On that sunny Saturday, these glitch fares ran the ENTIRE day. A small Norwegian airline called Widerøe, made a huge mistake in it’s booking engine; it was calculating fares completely wrong. During the process of assembling the numerous fees, surcharges and taxes involved in your usual airline ticket, Widerøe neglected to include fuel surcharges in that calculation, resulting in deep discounts on certain fares.The entire world was on sale (not an exhaustive list):

Europe: Dublin, London. Paris, Milan, Rome, Munich, Frankfurt, Oslo, Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Berlin

Israel: Tel Aviv

India: Mumbai, Delhi

Middle East: Dubai, Doha, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain

And these were flights on a well known carrier: United Airlines. People were booking their vacations for the entire year! Because I wasn’t a full time entrepreneur then, I knew that I only had a limited amount of vacation days. Where could I travel to in an extended weekend without having to be in the air for more than a day? Europe. The mantra to snag glitch fares is book now, ask questions later. I had no idea where I was going to stay or how I was going to get around. In fact, I just picked a random weekend in February without even requesting vacation off. I’d worry about that later.

Shaking and nervous, I perused the Wideroe booking engine in Norwegian (At the time, I didn’t know that you could switch the language). I had trusty Google Translate open in the adjacent tab. 20 minutes in and success!

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 8.45.09 AM

I was booked on a roundtrip flight on United to Milan from New Jersey for 802 NOK or $129.85. Now I nervously had to await my flight details from United (because this is what mattered most). A few grueling hours later (and purposefully not calling United for fear of flight cancellation), I received my itinerary.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 8.54.15 AM

Only one problem. I live in San Francisco. This flight was leaving out of New Jersey.

A key part of booking a glitch fare is not just adopting the “book now & think later” mentality but also being extremely flexible. If you fly out of a city that is on the same seaboard as you, you can easily book a flight to that airport and still come in way cheaper. In my case, I monitored the Flight Deal for cheap fares from SF to Jersey.

How to find glitch fares

One of the only ways to find glitch fares is to actively look for them. To be one of the first to find glitch fares (the earlier the better), you have to actively monitor forums FlyerTalk and get into the habit of checking the Flight Deal regularly. If you do this, I can almost guarantee that you’ll find the trip of your dreams for less than you’ve ever imagined.

How Often Can You Find Glitch Fares?

Glitch fares typically happen once a quarter (4 times a year) or more. It’s all about being at the right place at the right time. If you follow the instructions above and get into the habit of regularly trolling some of these sites, you will hit gold. A few months ago, there was a roundtrip fare to Tokyo from LA for $400.

Have you ever booked a glitch fare? What are some of the tools you use?

Travel Noire

Zim Ugochukwu

Zim is an avid photographer, visual storyteller, classically trained pianist, junk foodie, vegetarian, and occasional building climber. She is the founder & CEO of Travel Noire.

Want more?

Get exclusive, unpublished tips from Travel Noire's CEO to help you get off the beaten path, into the hearts of locals and onto a better, more cultured life.

Making History: The First Black Content Creator To Visit Mada’in Saleh

Making History: The First Black Content Creator To Visit Mada’in Saleh

Clé Hunnigan, founder of The Wind Collective, a travel community based in the United Kingdom, said he didn’t realize he was on the verge of making history when he got a call from Gateway KSA to document a portion of Saudi Arabia that has been closed to the public for years. Related Post: This Is […]

Parker Diakite

9 Jobs You Can Do While Traveling The World

9 Jobs You Can Do While Traveling The World

In a world where social media sets the tone for our travel destinations, people want a career that has a healthy work and travel balance. The best of both worlds: bleisure. A study shows that 69 percent of millennials on business trips wish they could extend their trip for leisure, while 39 percent of millennial travelers […]

Rachel George

Taking A Bite Out Of The Big Apple: Here’s How To Save On NYC Travel

Taking A Bite Out Of The Big Apple: Here’s How To Save On NYC Travel

New York City is the top of everyone’s bucket list for travel destinations, but the tourist hotspot is also a difficult place for those trying to save money. While there’s a neverending list of things to do and see in the Big Apple, no one wants to empty their bank account to do so. A […]

Rachel George