I do get asked, from time to time, to translate - or at least explain all the gubbins which appears on air tickets - either in paper format or on etickets. There is quite a lot of useful information on air tickets and a little understanding may be found helpful.
On the left are the good old fashioned paper tickets (actually more like card). These are known as ATB tickets. ATB stands, or rather stood for, Automated ticket and Boarding card. In their time, they were the bees knees. The predecessor was the genuine paper ticket, illustrated right.
Nearly all airlines now have the e-ticket, or electronic ticket. A simple piece of paper with all the journey details written on it. You do not even have to take a copy with you; though it is wise to do so. Apart from anything else, it shows what you have paid for. The purpose of this article, is to look at the information on any ticket and to try and give some sort of an insight into what it all means and how it may be helpful.
On the left, I have copied an actual eticket from one of my bookings. Let us now look at the information given. I have removed the name to protect the innocent. The first line, the WETR*2 is simply a code I enter to display the ticket and so may be ignored.
Most of the top part is devoted to the fairly obvious. Name, "FF" gives any frequent flyer number and TKT is short for ticket number. Though an eticket, there is still, always, a ticket number. If the piece of paper you have does not show a ticket number then you are mostly likely looking at your itinerary, rather than your ticket! This is a common mistake. I always recommend that you print out your eticket. It is very, very easy for an agent (or airline) to forget to issue an eticket and the only sure way, is for you to print the thing out, then you know it is issued.
Things now start to get interesting. This ticket shows a TOUR ID. In other words, it is a special fare ticket - or "consolidated" ticket, as it is known. If you look at the "Total" figure, it does not show a monetary figure, but GBPIT, or GBP - Great British Pounds and IT meaning Inclusive Tour. You may be on a business trip and not on holiday, but there are still many opportunities where these fares may be sold. The interesting part is that there is no actual fare shown - so you do not know the actual fare paid. In this case (and often in many others), there are indicators. We will come back to that in a minute.
The next line talks about FOP. This means "Form of Payment" This can be cash, invoice - what is used here is a generic entry, which is often used by travel agents - Form Agent/ Non Refundable - NONREF. In the days of hand written paper tickets we always used to put "Valid Flights/ Dates Stated Refund Restricted" which was also a sort of catch all statement. The next part covers the itinerary. OK means, basically, Okay (rather than, say, Waitlisted) and the fare basis is shown. I am not going to talk to much about the fare basis, but generally speaking unless this has just one letter, restrictions are involved. Here we see PEE6MBGB. The first letter usually relates to the booking class - a mechanism used by airlines to divide up the aircraft seats on any given flight - to establish the sales mix of cheap and varied price seats. P, A and F are usually First Class; J, C, D Business Class, W, K and S are used for Premium Economy (where airlines have this) and all the rest are Economy. R used to be Supersonic until Concorde stopped flying)
So this is in P class (cheap First) EE6 - an excursion ticket valid for 6 Months only, B does not mean an awful lot though sometimes is used to indicate season or stopover permissions or change fees and GB means Great Britain; the fare starts from the UK.
Then the tickets puts a precis of the main relevant rules into English, or more precisely "AIRIMP" This is a sort of shorthand used by the "people and cargo moving by air" business. VLD means Valid, RERTE means re-route - many are easy to guess; RES = Reservation! Having been in the business for 25 years, I have managed to get by with just a smattering of AIRIMP. NONREF (Non Refundable), UMNR (Unaccompanied Minor) WCHR (Wheelchair) and VGML (Vegetarian Meal) are a few used on a regular basis. I am sure that some airlines, however, make up AIRIMP words just to confuse the agents (let alone the customers!).
As mentioned earlier, the fare is IT which means "Inclusive Tour" another common one is "BT" which means stands for "Bulk Traffic". Airlines don't like to use this - if a client asks, they get a bit upset at being classified as "Bulk Traffic", for obvious reasons. I mentioned earlier about working out the fare, Well, in this case, the agent has been silly and left the fare calculation in situ (er, me, actually!)
LON MH KUL4386.08PEE6MBGB MH LON3151.85JEE1YBGB NUC7537.93EN
London on Malyasian to Kuala Lumpur costs 4386.08 and (Malaysian) back to London costs 3151.85 (First out, Business back) Total NUC7537.93. Great! Airlines, long ago, found out that trying to work out air fares in various currencies was a time consuming job. So they work everything out in NUC's or Neutral Units of Currency, and then simply calculate a rate for the country where you are buying the thing. Actually, they are effectively US Dollars, but some nations get all hot and bothered by having things in US Dollars. We know this, because if you look at an ex-USA fare, worked out in US Dollars, the ROE is 1! In this case, it is the UK and rate of exchange for NUC's to British Pounds is given as 0.490187 (The ROE or Rate of Exchange). So, the actual fare paid for the ticket was 7537.93 times 0.490187 of GBP (£) 3,695.00. This may not be the figure you, the client, paid the agent though. BUT and NEVER FORGET THIS You will ONLY get discounted tickets from an agent (be it online or on the High Street). By all means book direct with the airline - but you will have to pay the full "Published" fare and even then the airline may charge a fee as well. Given that the published fare on this trip would be pushing £ (UK POUNDS) 7,500, if the agent makes a £100 or so, one is still has a bargain.
Incidently, by "agent" I mean anyone who is not an airline, be it internet based on High Street based. If you have a trip, involving more then just a simple there and back, you will always be better off seeing a High Street agent - and make sure it is one that has their own GDS (reservation system) and preferably someone who has been in the business a long time. No-one has yet produced a website that can incorporate, shall we say, wrinkles. In air travel, there are many, many "wrinkles".
Here is another, straightforward e-ticket. In this case, the fare basis is given as NNR and WNR. The first letter debotes the booking class and the NR means "Non Refundable". The difference in the N and W class fare can be clearly seen in the fare construction line. There is also a YQ amount. This is simply the airlines very non-transparent way of hiding any fuel/ insurance surcharges. Just for good measure, even more fuel and insurance surcharges appear in the tax line - the YQ and YR "taxes". Don't worry more "small" taxes are already in the pipeline in the form of levys and many other thinly veiled revenue grabs masquesrading as planet-saving initiatives.
Note also that the fare is in Euros, so the rate of exchange or ROE is shown as that used to convert NUCs to Euros.
So, is there a sort of "idiot's guide" to fare basis codes and does one really need to know? Some pundits say that you should not worry about this aspect but I believe that if you are a regular traveller, some outline knowledge may be helpful. We already know that a simple, single letter usually means that one has an unrestricted ticket. You can do what you like, change it, refund it, bury it in peat for 6 months.... For any airline ticket, remember, the most you can ever hope for in terms of validity, is 12 months. If you happen to find an unused full fare ticket that is three years old which you had forgotton about, you will not automatically get a refund. If you were to write to the airline that issued the ticket (irrespective of where you got it from in the first place) they will probably replace it with an MPD (Multi Purpose Document - a sort of airline credit note).
A guide to what a fare basis means goes something like this. Take the fare basis of YRTGB This means Economy (Y) Return fare (RT) from Great Britain (GB). From this, one would deduce that it is a return fare, so if you only go one way, as the fare is a return fare, you cannot assume that you will get anything like half the money paid, back. Another, this time a cheap London to Paris with British Airways QNCLON2 Q class (the booking class indicates the price) No Changes (NC) from London (LON) and it is a return, or two sector fare, hence the 2.
Very often, in modern fares, airlines include promotional words in their fare basis descriptions. Air France have "TIME" fares, Lufthansa have "KOMBI" fares and Virgin have "MEGA" fares. I am not going to attempt to make a comprehensive guide to fares, such a task would be nigh on impossible. Like a crossword clue, the fare basis should be broken down before trying to understand it. Other indicators used are W for weekend, X for mid-week, L for Low Season, H for High Season or S for Shoulder. So, you could have SWLMEGA6M - S class, Weekend, Low Season, a Mega Fare valid for 6 months.
Do not confuse the fare basis with the fare type, which is when words such as APEX, PEX or SUPER PEX or SPEX are used (as have been "borrowed" by the railways). These mean Advanced Purchase Excursion fare, Passenger Excursion and Super Passenger Excursion. They are not generally used in fare codes these days, but you do occasionally see them.
The thing to remember is that if you have more than one letter, you have restrictions and it is useful to be aware of what they are before you make any ammendments or changes to your travel agrangements. Indeed, if you travel arrangements are likely to be fluid, then think twice before you buy the cheapest ticket around - so it is just as wise to ask before you buy the ticket. In the case of internet sales, you will need to read the rules before finishing your transaction. Very often, however, the rules are written in airline-speak - AIRIMP, but even so, you do need to understand what the airline is trying to put across. For this reason, I repeat my mantra - if you are buying anything other than a straightforward, simple there and back ticket, you are much better off calling an experienced IATA travel agent rather than trying to book online, even if you have to pay a fee.
Airline Tickets - Fare Codes - Some of the Basics
Eton Travel - We specialise in Business, Corporate and Leisure Travel. We are the leading independent UK business travel agent dedicated to the needs of the discerning business traveller. Our Head Office is based in Eton, close to London's Heathrow Airport.
+ 44 (0) 1753 671 757
Eton Travel, (Business Travel) The Lodge, Whitebrook Park, Lower Cookham Road, MAIDENHEAD, SL6 8YA Tel: +44 (0) 1628 778755
also at: (Business Travel) 10 Joiners Way, Chalfont St. Peter, GERRARDS CROSS, SL9 0BH Tel: +44 (0) 1753 889567
(Head Office) : 104 - 105 High Street, Eton, WINDSOR SL4 6AF Tel: +44 (0) 1753 671 757