Mistake Fares? What About Mistake Bookings?

We all make mistakes. Just last weekend I massively screwed up when I was sent out to purchase a hanging basket of flowers for the deck and came back with the wrong flowers!!

They were too purpley … didn’t even come close to matching the flowers we had purchased a couple of days earlier.

Boy did I feel stupid.

I recovered nicely though. Hung up the purple uglies in between the violet beauties. Made it look like an intended pattern and saved the day.

But I digress…

Most of us book our own travel, using a host of online travel booking tools each with its own user interface and intricacies. And so it wouldn’t be surprising if we goof occasionally and book travel in error – like these poor fools ;):

I booked a ferry transfer from Athens to Chania in Crete before I went out to Greece, thinking I [was] being all organised. It turned out I’d booked it two days before I was supposed to actually leave Athens, and had to spend what felt like hours when I was out there amending the ticket, at extra cost to myself. ~joseph98

I booked flights and hotel to Damascus. A week later, I realized the dates were wrong, and so had to pay to change the flights. Then I realized the original dates were in fact correct and had to pay [to] change them back to the original booking. ~theredquest

My sisters and I headed to Melbourne from Sydney for a weekend and I accidentally booked the flight home for the same day we were arriving. I obviously was using the mouse and must have scrolled by accident then didn’t check the details properly. We didn’t know until we turned up to check in and they didn’t have our flight details. ~AussieMel82

Haha! It’s funny because it didn’t happen to us.

Or has it?

My guess is mistake bookings are more common than any of us might care to admit. Which leads to the obvious question: If you were to make a booking by mistake, would the DOT require you to honor your booking?

Or put another way, if the DOT decides to allow airlines to reneg on mistake fares that disreputable travelers are obviously taking advantage of – as Gary surmises the DOT might be looking at as an option – will we as travel bookers be able to make a case that some bookings were obviously made in error and therefore we shouldn’t be required to honor them?

What if we could produce a jury summons during the dates of travel? Or maybe an appointment card from our dentist’s office, or a poster clearly indicating that the date of our kid’s Christmas pageant conflicts with our booked trip to Haiti?

I mean c’mon – do you airline and hotel people seriously think we would book a trip that conflicted with our kid’s Christmas pageant on purpose?

Then again, if you’re willing to rebook us to Tahiti for the same price we might consider it.

Read the thread in its entirety: Travel booking mistakes

Image: “make mistakes” by Mike Gifford. CC BY-SA 2.0.


  1. It Happens. One time I booked a connecting flight from ORD to STL after coming back from HKG. Only problem is I didn’t take into consideration the day change on the date line so my connection wasn’t until 24 hours later after a long 2 week trip with the wife.

  2. Apples and oranges. How would an airline know when a booking was made that it was an error? Answer – you’d be hard pressed to find a situation where the error would be obvious to an airline. On the contrary, mistake fares are usually obvious to the purchaser (and are so obvious they make the rounds on this board quickly). That’s the crux of contract law of mistakes – that the mistake would be obvious to the other side. This is a one way street here and rightly so.

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