$325 Airfare Glitch to South Africa

Over 20 hours spent in a flying tin can and I finally made it back to South Africa. When it’s all said and done with, it was 26 hours of travel from NYC to the hotel in Johannesburg. At this point, one would think I would be a pro at this. However, 20 hours on an airplane is not my idea of a good time, especially flying in economy. Unlike my RTW trip, where I was traveling in business class for those long haul flights. Flying economy for a flight of this length is not really something I want to do again, and I figure to use points to fly in business for any long haul flight when possible. MY flight from JFK-AUH via Jet Airways (Operated by Etihad), was not very comfortable. It was an Airbus A380 with a 3-4-3 configuration. While the leg room wasn’t awful, the seat width was certainly something that could’ve been improved. Whenever there was a meal served I had to eat like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. There was also the uncomfortable jockeying for room on the arm rest with a stranger. I ended up losing most of that battle, and the only way I could find some comfort was by crossing my arms.

It all came to fruition on early on Christmas Day, 2014. One of my go-to travel blogs, ThePointsGuy, had posted about a $180 RT fare to Abu Dhabi via Etihad. There were also reports of flights being nabbed for as cheap as $300-400 to Johannesburg, Mumbai, Hong Kong, and Manilla. Word was quickly spreading and I knew I had to act quickly before I hopped on a train back home. I have heard of these airfare glitches before, but I was never able to take advantage of the fare because of timing, not to mention that the fares usually don’t last very long at all. When in doubt, book the flight and then worry about whether you can take the trip since you have 24 hours to cancel your flight after you’ve purchased a ticket originating in the USA.

All fired up about this incredible deal I sent my GF a text asking if she wanted to try to make this work for a trip to Johannesburg, and she was game. Luckily she was still awake, as she was returning to her apt from a 12 hour night shift at the hospital. After an hour of going back and forth about finding the right flight we were able to snag two RT tickets with a layover in Abu Dhabi via Etihad Airlines for $325 RT! With the adrenaline pumping and the endorphins rushing, I quickly shot out a message to some of my friends about the amazing deal that I had found. Most were unable to take advantage of the deal, but one of them jumped on a ticket with his GF for $375 RT with a slightly different flight itinerary. This was a far better experience than going to the movies and eating Chinese food on Christmas, let’s hope this turns into an annual tradition as well.

Even though we had purchased the cheap airfare, it wasn’t a sure thing that the airline was going to honor the flight because it was a glitch. There have been precedents set on both ends of the spectrum, so it was a few days of scanning Twitter and Google News to see if Etihad was going to honor the airfare. Lucky for us, Eithad decided to honor the glitch airfare. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I booked two glitch airfare tickets in February, just because it was a ridiculous deal. I ended up paying ~$80 for a one way business class ticket from the UK to NYC via United Airlines. One flight was London to NYC in the fall, and the other flight was Edinburgh to NYC in the Summer. I had to go through some hoops to purchase the ticket by setting my country to Denmark via the United website, and that ultimately ended up leading to the demise of securing that ticket, even though I had been given a ticket. United decided they weren’t going to honor the tickets, as they were going to lose tens of millions of dollars on the glitch, and the DOT ended up coming to a decision that United would not have to honor the tickets.

The takeaway: If a glitch airfare comes along that you think is too good to be true? Don’t think twice, buy the ticket and cross your fingers and hope that the airline honors the ticket. Don’t start booking the rest of your travel plans until the dust settles on the , because there’s a 50/50 chance that the airline won’t honor your ‘once in a lifetime fare.’ These kind of glitch airfares are going to become more of a rare occurrence as years go on, so take advantage of them while you can!

Stay tuned for a more in-depth post about the tools I use to scan for these kind of fares.

What are your thoughts on booking a glitch airfare? Is it ethical? Would you take advantage of it? Let me know in the comments.

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