Fare classes, fare types, and classes of service are three totally different aspects of air tickets. Knowing what is what can save a lot of confusion when you purchase a ticket and sit down and read the various information items on it.
Fare classes are nothing to do with class of service classifications of economy, business and first classes. They are blocks of the aircraft’s seats that are sold at different times and that are allocated different fare structures depending on time left before the flight.
An airline will typically sell so many seats for a given amount and once those tickets have been sold, they step up to the next batch at a higher cost. It therefore generally pays to book in advance with traditional scheduled airlines.
Classes of service
There are three major classes of service - first, business and economy and two more (coach and thrift) that are little used today. Club class and Premium Economy is also in use and is one step above economy and one below business, also known.
Fares naturally go up when you go from economy to business and from business to first, and there are several types of discounted fare tickets - discounted, night, weekend, off-peak, advance purchase, and excursion fares.
These criteria are represented by letters that denote frequent flier miles usage, upgrades, cancellations and refunds, and so on, and the more the cost of the ticket, generally the more flexibility you have. This has nothing to do with class of service, however, and you will have the exact same seat and service as the guy next to you.
While there is not that much in it between economy and business classes on domestic legs, when flying internationally, and especially on long haul flights, pricing between economy and business classes can be double or treble the dollar value, and double again for first class. You of course get bigger seats, better food and faster enplaning and deplaning when going for a higher class.
Although once just a clever idea, e-tickets are now a reality, having virtually replaced traditional paper tickets worldwide. The great thing about e-tickets is that they are easy to replace if they are lost and damaged and they don’t need to be reordered through the post.
The rise in the number of internet-based air ticketing sites means that it is very easy to purchase your ticket online and there are big saving to be made. Compare prices between a number of sites and use a credit or debit card to buy your ticket instantly.
When you purchase your flight ticket online you will be sent an email confirmation stating the flight number as well as the time and date of flight, airport, seat number and travel class. This is your e-ticket. Simply print it out and hand it in along with your passport and baggage when you check in at the airport. Easy, isn’t it?
If you decide to book your ticket through a travel agent, you will often receive an e-ticket as they will book your flight and the e-ticket will either be faxed instantly to their office or they will receive it via email.
When checking in, you will need to produce your e-ticket or booking number. However, the great thing about these tickets is that all the information is stored in the airline’s computer database and should the worst happen and you manage to misplace your e-ticket on the way to the airport, the check in clerk should be able to find the details using your passport number and present you with your boarding pass.
The first e-tickets were used by Southwest Airlines in 1994 and although many people were slightly suspicious of the validity of the tickets at first, they were soon won over by the convenience and ease of use. E-tickets also make life easier for airlines as passenger details such as email address and contact number are stored in their database and they can simply phone or email if any details such as the flight number or time should change.
Fare types are designated by letters on tickets that denote the flexibility and structuring of the class you are booked into. The fare types in no way alter the class of service in a given class, although the cheaper the ticket, the more restrictive. This generally doesn’t apply to business and first classes, however.
What the letters on the tickets mean:
- KH: weekend
- KL: midweek and off-peak
- MH: weekend (discount fare)
- ML: midweek and off-peak (discount fare)
- SH: peak
- SL: off-peak
- V: off-peak
- BN: night coach
- V: off-peak
- YH: weekend
- YL: midweek/off-peak
- QH: weekend (Friday through Sunday)
- QL: midweek (Monday through Thursday)
- AP: advance purchase
- EX: excursion fare
- B: capacity-controlled excursion fares
- SW: off-peak (Saturday or Sunday)
- W: weekend
- X: midweek
- US: 48 states (Alaska and Hawaii exempt)
Children under the age of two years can travel for free in the US and on international flights when sat on an adult’s lap, not occupying a seat of their own. It will generally be fine, however, to place the child on an empty seat next to you when the plane isn’t full.
Kids sharing a parent’s seat do not receive a baggage allowance although of course an allowance will be made for a carry-on baby-changing bag. This ruling only counts for one child per fare-paying adult and if you have more than one per adult, you will need to ask about an infant ticket during reservations.
Kids between two and 12 years will need their own seats, although discount fares can be had, typically 50 to 100 percent of the full adult fare.