Let’s start from the beginning.
Earlier in 2016, I booked a roundtrip error fare flight from Taipei to Denver for $183. Yes, you read that correctly. $183. It was the greatest airfare steal of all time. I had won the lottery. Economy class may be getting worse, but when I can fly across the Pacific Ocean for less than $200, I will fly without complaints. My plan was to spend a week in Taipei after my Habitat for Humanity build in Nepal to rest before flying back to America for the holidays.
An error fare is when an airline or third party booking site lists an airfare for the incorrect price, usually hundreds of dollars cheaper than the standard airfare. Travel hackers aka the travel obsessed eat up those fares like there’s no tomorrow. Literally, because those error fares won’t last until tomorrow. The risk with error fares though is that airlines sometimes don’t honor the sale because of the amount of money lost in the deal. Luckily, I was issued tickets at the aforementioned price without question, and the deal became even sweeter once I checked in at the airport.
My confusion began when the woman at the check in counter at Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport handed me a complimentary voucher for the China Airlines lounge. First of all, China Airlines is on the Skyteam Alliance and I was flying with Japan Airlines and American Airlines which are both part of One World Alliance. She handed me the voucher and sent me on my way. I walked away speechless, curious about such a nice gesture, but excited about the free access. In the lounge, I treated myself to pork buns, sweet potato, fresh fruit, free wifi and a quiet environment.
After an hour, I headed to my gate to board the first segment of 4 long flights home. When I boarded the plane, to my surprise, my seat was in business class which explained the lounge access but still left me confused because I had booked an economy class ticket. I sat down in 8D, my assigned lie flat bed seat in business class on JAL’s Boeing 787 aircraft. I was convinced that I had stolen someone’s seat and they’d be along any moment to confirm I had done so. But nobody came, and I felt like I had gotten away with the traveler’s greatest crime. So now my $200 ticket included one segment of business class.
Apparently, at the last minute there had been an aircraft switch and my 8D seat which was originally in economy was now in business class. The upgrade still doesn’t make sense because, in the event of an aircraft switch, surely they would just place me in a different numbered economy row rather than upgrading me to a business class seat without notice. And economy class on my flight was nowhere near full. Though a little unsettled by it all, I didn’t question it and did my best to enjoy my short 3 hour flight to Tokyo with business class service.
After I got off the plane, I made a b-line for the American Airlines lounge at Narita which I get complimentary access to with my AA Executive credit card. Again, it was nice to seek refuge in a quiet space before boarding the 9 hour flight to my next stop: LAX. Narita’s AA Admiral Club is my favorite lounge for how spacious it is, the delicious food, cleanliness, and shower availability. They always have beef curry, noodles, rice, green tea pudding, fresh fruit, and all the beverages on hand for hungry passengers. I soaked in this afforded luxury as long as I could because, at this point, I didn’t know if my other seats would be in business class or economy.
For my segments to Los Angeles (LAX) and Denver (DEN), I was seated in the front rows of economy with legroom to spare and although, I didn’t sleep well on the way home, I was grateful for the extra space to stretch. When I landed in LAX, I went to scope out the American Airlines lounge, but it was not as impressive as Narita’s. It was small and not well maintained, but I was grateful for the easy access to quick snacks and reliable wifi.
My trip ended with a night at the Westin Hotel in the Denver Airport which was the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. It was so modern, clean, safe, and my only regret is that I only got to spend one night there before heading onward to Florida to be with family for the holidays.
So that was the greatest airfare steal of all time in my personal history with a few unexpected but pleasant surprises.