A fare “ghosts” when it shows up in search results but when you click through to purchase it, the fare shown is no longer available or the price is much higher than what was originally listed.
You won’t know you’re looking at a ghost fare until you’ve selected your flight (or flights) from the search results. A few things will tip you off that what you’re seeing is likely a ghost fare.
First, the flight will either suddenly be much more expensive, or you will be instructed to “call airline” to book (if you call, you’ll be told the fare is no longer available). Additionally, the other fares that are bookable online will typically be priced significantly higher.
Fare ghosting makes about as much sense and happens as randomly as getting ghosted by a person. E.g. it typically comes without any warning signs.
The reason it happens, though, is flight prices fluctuate constantly. When you search directly on an airline’s site, you get updated results in real time, but when flight search sites and OTAs (online travel agencies) communicate with airlines, there’s often a delay so the site might not have the most updated data.
It’s worth checking another OTA or search site to see if they’re still selling the fare, but in most cases it’s likely gone—and clearing your cookies or calling the airline won’t bring it back.
To recap: Ghosting is when a fare shows up in the search results of an OTA or flight search site like Google Flights, but when you go to book it, it’s no longer available It’s a bummer when a great fare ghosts, but there’s nothing you can do about it. When we send deals to Scott’s Cheap Flights members, we make sure the fares are truly bookable, but flight prices change constantly and fares can disappear within hours, so it pays to act quickly.