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.
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!
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.
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?
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.