This post is about a United Airlines $231 San Francisco-Copenhagen mistake fare that was available to purchase for only about 15 minutes ten hours ago.
This is my deconstruction of a mistake fare that I watched come and go with my reaction to finding a great deal on a route I have been actively searching for a good booking opportunity.
San Francisco to Copenhagen on Star Alliance
Last night I was searching San Francisco to Copenhagen tickets on Star Alliance, just like I have done on most days for the past month. Copenhagen is my desired airport destination for access to cheap flights to Cluj-Napoca, Romania from nearby Malmo, Sweden MMX airport.
Around 9:45pm in California I was looking at $422 round trip tickets on Air Canada.
Then, Star Alliance ticket prices on Google Flights fare calendar suddenly dropped to $354.
United Airlines ticket $353.51 round trip
SFO – London LHR (United) – Copenhagen (SAS) – Vienna (Austrian) – LAX (Austrian) – SFO (United)
Tue May 1 – Tue May 8
This United Airlines $354 ticket is one I found enticing, but the itinerary did not quite meet my needs since I am looking for a trip with 9 to 12 nights in Europe and this ticket for May 1-May 8 is only six nights in Europe.
I checked miles earning for Austrian Airlines economy K booking code. I knew this fare class does not earn miles in Aegean Miles+Bonus, my preferred frequent flyer program. Surprisingly, Austrian K earns 50% flight miles in Air Canada on Vienna to LAX flight for 3,069 redeemable miles on Aeroplan.
This ticket simply did not meet my objective for maximizing Star Alliance Aegean Miles+Bonus elite miles at only 3,238 Tier Miles. I need a ticket earning over 5,000 Aegean elite miles.
Flying United and Air Canada in economy K class can earn over 6,000 Aegean elite miles on a $422 round trip ticket SFO-CPH.
Next Step: Check the following Tuesday, May 15 for a $353 ticket allowing 2-week trip May 1-15.
May 1-15 did not pull up the low price in the $300s.
When I searched Google Flights again there were several more dates for SFO-CPH priced in the low $300s. Stockholm was also on sale in the $300s.
I tried a couple of other routes focused on United Airlines and SAS flights showing ticket prices in the low $300s on Google Flights fare calendar, but each ticket re-priced to $400s on Google Flights direct links to United Airlines ticketing.
Then, I spotted another fare drop with ticket prices at $232 round trip for a few dates in April and May 2018.
United Airlines SFO – Copenhagen, Denmark $230.91 round trip Mon May 7 – Mon May 14
San Francisco SFO – Frankfurt – Copenhagen (Lufthansa operated flights economy K)
Copenhagen – Vienna – Los Angeles (Austrian operated flights economy K)
LAX-San Francisco SFO (United economy K).
The common factor for both these low fares were Austrian Airlines flights on the return leg.
Over the next ten minutes I searched 20 or more dates on Google Flights showing $231 to $353 ticket prices. All tickets showing these low fares on Google Flights re-priced to mid-$400s on the United Airlines deep link upon clicking the return flight segments.
I saw low ticket prices in $200s and $300s to Copenhagen and Stockholm from SFO, SJC and LAX. These were all fruitless chases as the fare changed to $400s for the Google Flights United deep link.
The two low ticket prices on United shown in this post were found at 9:48 and 10:00pm California time.
By 10:15pm, I determined this fare was gone.
To Buy or Not to Buy
As I got ready to shut down my computer and go to sleep, I noticed I still had the United Airlines booking window open for the $231 ticket to Copenhagen.
To my surprise the $231 ticket price was still available as I went through the ticketing steps of the United Airlines booking process.
I got to the final step of booking and spent a couple of minutes debating whether to click the purchase link. United allows free cancellation within 24 hours of booking.
$231 to Europe flying Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines San Francisco to Copenhagen in May 2018 was a real deal.
Rationality won out.
This Copenhagen ticket was the right route, but no Aegean elite miles earned flying these airlines, which is my primary airline ticket objective for the trip. Only 6 nights in Europe, which does not meet my trip plan for 9-12 nights.
Tempting as it was for cheap deal bragging rights, I closed my browser on the $231 ticket.
While I have scored some great deals through mistake fares, like $226 San Francisco to Auckland in Nov 2016, my mistake ticket purchase track record is one that has cost me more money in ticket purchases I did not fly than low fare trips I made on mistake fares.
I like well-planned trips with dates where I know I can get a good hotel deal too. Mistake fares are usually impulse buys to grab a deal before it is gone.
Back to the $422 Air Canada deal for 6,224 Tier Miles. An extra $190 earns the elite miles I need for Aegean Airlines Gold elite for the dates I prefer and the trip length in Europe I desire.