Travel Tips

5 Things to Do After Booking a Mistake Fare

Did you get in on the American Airlines Beijing business class mistake fare yesterday? It happened around 7:30 PM (PT), or at least that’s when I noticed @TravelSummary’s tweets. There was a glitch on that led to $450 round-trip business class fares between Washington D.C. and Beijing. These low fares were good through June 1 and during September. I tried but just couldn’t make the dates and positioning flights work in time. If you got in on these fares, here are 5 things you need to do before your trip:

Airport departure gate

1. Be prepared for cancellations. There’s always the possibility that a mistake fare will not be honored, even if it is confirmed. That’s what happened with United’s 4-mile Hong Kong ticket, though to be fair that was an award ticket and United has since honored the $187 mistake fare to Abu Dhabi. Still, I wouldn’t make any nonrefundable travel bookings until American Airlines confirms that these fares will be honored.

2. Decide whether you want to go or not. Now the real question is do you actually want to go on this trip? After it hit me that I didn’t necessarily want to fly 14 hours in order to spend a week in Abu Dhabi, I ended up canceling that flight even though it cost less than $200. Sometimes we get swept up in how great a fare is without thinking about whether we actually want to visit that particular destination.  Yes, you might earn miles on a super cheap mistake fare and I guess travel in general is a worthwhile pursuit. However, you shouldn’t go someplace just because the fare is super cheap, especially since you will incur additional expenses that could be used to travel to someplace you do want to visit. Be sure to make your decision before the cancellation or hold period ends. 

3. Get a visa and renew your passport (if necessary). I’m a hypocrite because getting my passport renewed has been on my to-do list for the past month. It officially expires in May and while I have all the paperwork filled out, I’m just waiting for a good hair day to get my picture taken (kidding – I’ve been too lazy to do it). In order to qualify for a Chinese visa, your passport needs to be valid for at least one year. So if your passport doesn’t meet this requirement, don’t put it off – get it renewed well in advance of your trip.

4. Book positioning flights. Most recent mistake fares have been out of Midwest or East Coast airports. This means if you live on the West Coast like me (or anywhere else, really), you have to book a positioning flight to get there. Be sure to check this chart to determine whether it makes more sense to redeem airline or Arrival miles for these flights. The good news is that if you don’t have the Arrival Miles to cover a flight right now, you have 120 days after purchasing the ticket to generate and redeem them. Yes, you’ll have to pay off your credit card in the meantime, but eventually you can off-set the expense with a statement credit. If you’re traveling with one or more people, redeeming an airline companion pass might be a good option.

5. Arrange hotels and transportation. You’ll obviously need a place to stay at your final destination, but if you’re booking a positioning flight with inconvenient travel dates/times and long layovers, you’ll need to make additional arrangements. Before making your hotel reservations, be sure to check this list of current promotions to ensure you earn the most points possible for your stay. Airbnb is a good alternative for affordable accommodations and you can get a $25 credit by signing up with my Airbnb referral link.

As far as transportation goes. Uber and Lyft are good options for getting around, especially since their airport pick-up/drop-off rates are generally reasonable. You can redeem Arrival Miles for Uber charges or if you don’t have an Uber account, you can get $20 towards your first ride by using my referral link. If you don’t want to waste your $20 Uber credit on a ride that costs less than that, consider using Curb. You can get a $10 credit through my link and whatever portion of the credit you don’t use gets rolled over to your next ride. Keep in mind that Lyft and Curb are not yet available in Beijing, though you can use them in D.C.

Hopefully those of you who got in on the Beijing business class mistake fare are able to make it work and get a great trip out of it. If you missed out on it, be sure to read my tips on how not to miss out on the next mistake fare.

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  1. I was able to plug in random dates in Orbitz for the deal last night and it worked. I thought it was amazing that I actually could get it to work. The sad thing is I don’t have the time to take this trip as I’m already booked up for my PTO this year. Bravo to all those who were able to get it before it was gone!

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