If you've been under a rock for the last 24 hours, you may have missed news of a fuel dump that broke into public last night.
Fuel dumping is one of the more arcane arts of travel hacking; it involves configurations of flight legs which cause the fuel surcharges normally associated with an itinerary to "drop off," leave only the (usually much lower) base fare in place.
There are a plethora of these tricks, and they're reproducible. Most travel hackers I know, myself included, don't bother with them for the simple reason that they're typically only good for specific routes or carriers; if you aren't interested in flying that route or carrier, they're little more than a party trick, although a very neat one.
Today's fuel dump
What made today's revelation (starting yesterday evening in this FlyerTalk thread, continuing today on Twitter here and here, among other places) interesting was that it was for a huge range of dates (I found it on basically all mid-week-to-mid-week itineraries) and between destinations that were conceivably interesting to a lot of people: the first leg from several major US cities to Milan, Italy, and the second leg from Prague, Budapest, and other European cities to many destinations in Asia.
How to find it
A few moments ago I was still able to find a $257 fare using this trick; how long it will last is anyone's guess. Here's how to find your own trick fare:
- Use Priceline.com to conduct a "Multi-Destination" search.
- For the first leg, search for a US city served by Alitalia (it seems to be Alitalia coding on the first leg that triggers the error, whoever the operating carrier is). JFK and LAX reportedly work, although I haven't been able to reproduce any fares out of LAX. Use Milan's MXP airport as the destination. As I said above, mid-week departures seem to return the lowest fares.
- For the second leg, use a European city served by Alitalia, KLM, or Air France with a destination in Asia. Mid-week dates return the lowest fares.
- Keep searching.
For further suggestions, start with the FlyerTalk thread where people are reporting their successful reservations.
Here's a $257 flight using JFK as the US origin and Shanghai as the Asian destination:
Priceline seems to give you until midnight on the day after booking to cancel airline reservations. Even if you're not sure about your plans yet, consider doing what I did: book several options, then talk it out with your family or friends and see which, if any, of the options end up working for you. While apparently this trick has been around for a while, I do not expect it to last long now that it's out in the wild.
...but be careful
For the time being I would not associate your frequent flyer number with any of these reservations, especially an account with the operating carrier. Instead, consider crediting your miles to a partner mileage program, like Alaska Airlines for flights operated by Delta.