I believe it was the American comedian, Chris Rock, who once said that “Wealth is not about having a lot of money, it is about having a lot of options……..”
Having a lot more options is what a business class ticket represents to the business class traveller and it is not a wanton display of wealth. However, it might interest every traveller to know that not all business class tickets provide unlimited options to the holder and sometimes, it is not surprising to find that everyone seated in the business cabin has paid vastly different prices for their tickets.
I have written in a previous article that if there is one industry that has managed to use technology to take advantage of demand and supply to price their service, and make quick changes on the same, it is the airline industry. Sounds unfair doesn’t it? But it isn’t really because the different fares that each business class traveler pays for their ticket represents the benefit level afforded to each ticket holder. My job therefore is to make it easier for you to understand the various benefits on each fare and help you to make the wisest decision when it comes to purchasing your business class ticket.
In my previous article, I talked a little bit about Premium economy, which offers more benefits than the traditional economy seating, but is not quite the same as travelling on business class. Travelling on a business class ticket, offers more flexibility, comfort, convenience and even class to suit the astute and discerning business traveller. Some of the conveniences that a business traveller will typically be looking for include a dedicated security and check-in counter, extra luggage allowance, free unlimited changes of travel dates & time, free upgrade to 1st class seating or even the cancellation of an entire trip without incurring any charges and, receiving a full refund of the ticket price.
Every traveller should be keen on the ticketing and airline conditions that are attached to each ticket, and most especially, those single-letter characters on your boarding pass. These letters, show the class or status of ticket booked or simply, the amount of money that you have paid for your ticket. In airline speak, this is usually referred to as ‘the fare code’ or ‘fare basis’ and is often printed on your boarding pass, under the flight details in a single letter e.g. ‘J’, ‘C’, ‘D’, ‘I’, or ‘Z’.
We will pick and explain some of the generally used letter codes that represent the fare booking class or status that appears on your boarding pass, even though not every airline follows these codes exactly to show their fare types.
With most airlines, if you see that the booking class on your boarding pass is the letter ‘J’, it usually means that you are the proud holder of the highest business class ticket and that you have paid a premium fare for it. And, depending on the airline ticket conditions, this particular ticket will give you full flexibility. This ticket is valid for 12 months from the date it was issued, you can change your flight at no cost, you can cancel your ticket and receive a full refund, your ticket is endorsable on another airline if need be and, you can upgrade to first class with your frequent flier miles if the seats are available on the particular flight that you want.
However, if you see the letter ‘C’ on your boarding pass, it means you paid full fare or what is known as an unrestricted fare. An unrestricted fare means that your ticket is fully refundable if your trip is cancelled before travel. This ticket is also valid for 12 months and you can change your dates of travel at no extra cost but, your ticket is non-endorsable. A non-endorsable ticket means that your ticket can only be used on the airline that issued it.
The letters ‘D’, ‘I’ & ‘Z’ on your boarding pass are the most restrictive in business class and are usually the discounted business class fares. These business class tickets means that the holders will incur extra charges, usually from about $200 to change the time or date of travel if need be. Unfortunately, changing the destination of travel on this fare class is not allowed. And, the validity of travel on this particular ticket is up to a maximum of 6 months and the tickets are non-endorsable.
Lastly, note that if your travel has multiple legs; you will find that your ticket has multiple fare codes. In this case, each fare code has its own restrictions for each leg and your entire journey may be restricted to the rules of the most restrictive leg. So, for example, if the fare code on one part of your journey is strictly non-refundable, then most likely, your entire ticket will be non-refundable.
There is a reason why your travel agent or consultant exists and simplifying fares codes for you the traveller is one of them. Therefore, do not be afraid to ask your travel consultant or agent to let you know of all the restrictions that are attached to your ticket for a better travel experience.
The Author is the Founder and CEO of Saffara Ltd
This article was first published in the East African Newspaper. Read the East African article here: “Business class offers more ticket options”
Wanjiru Catherine, CEO