Secret Cheap Airfare Option on Orbitz

Last week I announced that I found cheap airfares (under $500) from Washington, DC to Europe for the summer. Such fares are typically over $1,000 so this was a phenomenal discovery.

Those fares are no longer available but here is the process I used to find them.

First, I did a standard airfare search:

  1. Using Orbitz.com, click on the Flights tab along the top.
  2. Click the “Find low fares for weekends and flexible trips” link
  3. Enter “WAS” for From and “GVA” for To (you can enter city names, such as Washington or Dulles or Geneva)
  4. Select Option 3: Flexible Stays (I searched for 12-14 days between July 15 and August 11)
  5. Click Find button

The least expensive flight was $1,458. Ouch.

Second, here is the secret cheap airfare process:

  1. Using Orbitz.com, click on the Flights tab along the top.
  2. Select the “” option
  3. Select “Spanair” as Preferred Airline 1
  4. Click the “Find low fares for weekends and flexible trips” link
  5. Enter “WAS” for From and “GVA” for To
  6. Select Option 3: Flexible Stays (same options)
  7. Click Find button

The most expensive flight was just over $1,000 but the cheapest flight was an incredible $527. There were plenty of options for $606 and $631. I found flights under $500 to Brussels. There were similar results with many European destinations.

Why did the first search not find the flights I found in the second search? That is the magic question.

This loophole or quirk (we called them software anomalies when I worked in IT) does not currently work. However, there are currently $700 fares between Washington, DC and Madrid (non-stop on Spanair).

Several lessons can be learned from this example:

  1. Booking engines (Orbitz, Travelocity, Kayak, Bing, Vayama, etc.) have hidden quirks.
  2. Finding these quirks can save you tons of money.
  3. Finding these quirks can be difficult.
  4. These hidden quirks can go away at any time.

Have you found a secret cheap airfare option?

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