How We Scored Business Class Seats for the Price of Economy

 

An Amazing Deal!

We booked our trip to the Philippines on a whim, thanks to an amazing “mistake fare” flight deal. I subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights– an email newsletter that simply sends out awesome flight deals. No booking fees or commissions, they literally just alert you of a good sale and you book elsewhere (Google Flights, Kayak, direct with airline, etc.). I started with the free subscription but after a couple years, I paid the $39 annual fee to get 3x more deals. It immediately paid off when I received this deal just a few weeks later: $600 round trip BUSINESS CLASS seats to Asia (either Bangkok, Bali, Shanghai or Manila) on Hong Kong Airlines. This was a “mistake fare” which means the price is literally an error. This exact biz class round trip ticket normally sells for $6,000+.

Typically, our travel plans are determined by the World Surf League event schedule because Shaun competes on the Qualifying Series circuit of competitions. The tricky thing with this, is that more often than not, a surf contest is “tentative” until just a month or so before (I’m assuming this is usually due to funding/sponsorship or lack thereof). Anyways, this results in “last minute” travel plans. To me, “last minute” is 1 month before.

There was a contest on Siargao Island in the Philippines that we had been eyeing all year. We felt like the contest would probably end up happening, since it had been an annual staple of the schedule for many years, but you really never know. It was listed as “tentative” from the beginning of the year, and still was about 6 weeks prior to the start date. 4 weeks is the cut-off date for a contest to “confirm” because that’s the deadline for athletes to sign up. It was getting down to the wire for this contest to happen or not.

So back to Scott’s Cheap Flights: I receive this unbelievably awesome deal for BUSINESS CLASS (let me emphasize that again: BUSINESS CLASS) seats to Asia for the same price as economy. It’s available for the exact dates of the Siargao Island contest. Manila is one of the airport hubs offered. It felt like all the stars were aligning! But… the contest was still tentative. We were sitting on the 6-week mark and had no clue if this contest would confirm or not. And “mistake fares” are notorious to only be available for a few hours if that. Sometimes they’re all corrected within 1 hour!

 

What do we do?

When I got the email deal, Shaun was out surfing so we didn’t even discuss it for a couple hours until he was back on his phone. I thought the deal was probably long gone, but it was still showing on Priceline! So, I explained the situation to Shaun when we got home and we started weighing the options…

One side of me was thinking–– obviously let’s buy it! Neither of us had ever flown business class, we both really enjoy visiting Asia (see: Bali, Tokyo), and it’s a miraculous coincidence to coincide with the contest dates!!

But the logical (and worrisome) side of me was thinking–– and what if the contest gets cancelled? Then we just spent a bunch of money for a wishy-washy opportunity? And it probably WILL get cancelled since it’s just a couple weeks from the cut-off date! It’s not looking optimistic…

We decided to try to gather as much information as we could and see if we could get any more information on the status of the contest before we buy the flights. If the deal disappears, then that really sucks, but maybe we’ll still go and get regular flights. So, Shaun emails a couple of contacts at the WSL, and I email some Siargao resorts to see if they had any local knowledge on the status of the event.

A couple hours later, (keep in mind this is all within half a day), someone from the WSL contest replied and said they didn’t know if it would be confirmed and acknowledged the tight timeline–– but they directed us to the specific event coordinator who would have more information. That person replied saying it looks promising – we’re just pulling together a few last-minute details – but we’ll let you know….

 

Let’s Do It!

Apparently, that was enough confirmation for us, because we pulled the trigger and bought the tickets that day!!! However, as excited as we both were, I was also still nervous because the contest could still get canceled. Who knows when we’ll find out? Welp, I tell a few friends about my exciting flight deal, and one of my coworkers points out to me: What’s the worst that happens? The contest gets canceled but you still get to fly business class to the Philippines and go on a vacation? Hmm. I guess that’s true.

The very next morning, Shaun gets an email (from the event coordinator) forwarding a press release announcing the contest is CONFIRMED! Obviously the “mistake fare” has been corrected by now (24 hours later) so we were really testing fate with our timing and decision on booking! Woohoo!!

 

The Risks of a “Mistake Fare”

But now we have obstacle #2: “mistake fares” have a slight chance of not being honored. Sometimes, airlines will realize their error, and they will not honor the tickets sold at the error price. According to Scott’s Cheap Flights, the airlines typically have 24-48 hours to declare if they are NOT going to honor the fare, and Scott’s Cheap Flights recommends waiting about a week to book anything non-refundable for said trip, just in case (hotel, car, etc.).

Now the waiting game begins. I’m part of a Scott’s Cheap Flights “Travel Community” Facebook group (yeah, I know, I’m a really big fan) with 60,000+ other cheap flight aficionados and everyone was buzzing about this super sweet Asia deal. Some were bummed because they got the purchase page and then the deal became ‘unavailable’ –– they just missed it! Some of us (like me!) were celebrating our upcoming luxury flights, while also asking for advice: Has anyone heard if their ticket will be honored?! What do we do?!

Some people said to not bring the deal to the airline’s attention until after the 48-hour period, since that could alert them and potentially lead to a cancellation & refund process. One of the community members said as long as you get your seat selection then you’re golden. He commented that he did the “live chat” with HK Airlines and was able to receive seat selection confirmation… and since I’m the most impatient person in the world, of course I did the same. A few hours later, I had seats 15E + 15F along with an email confirmation from Hong Kong Airlines directly (I had booked through a third party, Priceline).

A few days later, Hong Kong Airlines tweeted about the mistake fare, admitting they had screwed up but confirming they will honor all deals sold in order to remain loyal to their customers. From that point on, I felt 100% confident that we just scored the best cheap flight deal ever!!

 

A Happy Ending

Spoiler alert: Everything worked out fine. Business class is the epitome of travel luxury, unlike anything we’ve experienced in our young, budget lifestyle. To be honest, I’m afraid we’ve peaked in our travel career because who knows the next time we’ll score this deal! (Or be able to afford business class, legitimately!).

Moral of the story: Scott’s Cheap Flights is my guru and I recommend you sign up now!!! Even just getting the free version is definitely worth it, and you’ll still receive super-cheap deals.

 

Stay tuned for posts about our time in the Philippines coming soon!

 

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