Fare basis code
A fare basis code (often just referred to as a fare basis) is an alpha or alpha-numeric code used by airlines to identify a fare type and allow airline staff and travel agents to find the rules applicable to that fare. Fare codes starts with a single letter, called a booking code or class, which matches the letter code that the reservation is booked in. Other letters or numbers may follow. Typically a fare basis will be 3 to 7 characters long. but can be up to 8.
Although airlines now set their own fare basis codes, there are some patterns that have evolved over the years and may still be in use.
The first character is always a letter, and will match the booking code. Booking codes are the identifiers given by the airline's "revenue management" department, and allow the airline to control how many seats can be sold at a particular fare level. For example, a plane may have 25 economy seats still available and the airline may show it in a reservation system as
Y7 K5 M4 T6 E3
which indicates how many of each fare type can be reserved.
Some codes cannot be sold by agents, and those seats may be reserved for international connections, loyalty programs, or airline staff relocation.
Booking codes used to be standardized, and were defined by IATA. However, airlines have deviated from the IATA standard and current booking codes are airline specific. The same code may have quite different meanings for tickets issued by different airlines. Nevertheless, certain booking codes have fairly standardized meanings across nearly all airlines, and have had these meanings for many years:
- F: first class
- J: business class
- Y: economy class
- W: premium economy. This is a more recent addition to airline classes, intended as a mix of Economy and Business class features. The letter W is often used for this level.
Other common patterns
- The first letter based on the booking code, or to indicate the level of service.
- E as the second letter. This often indicated that the fare was an "Excursion Fare". These fares typically had a minimum and maximum stay requirement to encourage use by the holiday market and not business travellers.
- Numerals - Numerals in the later parts of a fare basis often indicate the maximum stay the fare rules will allow at a destination. Thus a YE45 is an economy excursion fare with a maximum stay of 45 days. Similar patterns could be YE3M indicating a 3 month maximum.
- H or L - (other than as the first letter). High or low season.
- W or X (other than as the first letter). These two letters are commonly used in European airfares to state if a fare is valid on a weekday (X) or restricted to weekends (W).
- OW - One way fare only.
- RT - Return fare.
- Two letter country codes - Fare basis often end with the two letter country code. This will be the case where an airline has an international fare in both directions. For example, a fare from Great Britain to Australia may be YE3MGB, and YE3MAU from Australia to Great Britain. This allows the fare to have similar rules, but may have some variations in change fees or to comply with local trade restrictions.
- CH - Child fare. (If used, will always be the last two characters)
- IN - Infant fare. (If used, will always be the last two characters)
Airline specific codes
There is an endless list of other codes on modern fares. These are not standardized in any way, and may often be for short-term use. Examples are...
- Codes that indicate an airline's common name for a fare. As a hypothetical example, an airline selling what they refer to as their "Super-Saver" fare may use SPRSVR in the fare basis, or may use it as the entire code.
- Codes that limit a fare to a particular company or organisation. An airline may negotiate a fare with the XYZ company and include these letters in their fare basis. Negotiated fares are normally only visible to agents that have a contract to sell them, and are not publicly listed.
- Codes for use with military personnel, or federal government employees. These are commonly used in the United States, and often indicate fares with minimal or no restrictions on changes and refunds.
Multiple fare basis
It is common for a multi-sector air ticket to have more than one fare basis, particularly if it is for carriage on more than one airline. The issuing airline may often have an interline agreement to allow other airlines on the ticket. One disadvantage of this system is that if any change is made, the most restrictive fare rule, and/or the highest change fee, may apply to the entire ticket, not just the portion being changed.
Global Distribution Systems
In a GDS, the fare basis will typically display as part of a fare display, and will not normally be shown in an availability display. Some modern booking systems allow availability searches using parameters such as time of day and lowest fare, and may negate the need for an agent to firstly study the fare basis rules.
The fare basis is normally shown on the air ticket. On older paper tickets, it was highlighted on the relevant coupon for that flight. On modern e-tickets, it is often printed under the flight details.
- "The Cranky Flier, Fun with Fare Basis Codes". 2007. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
- Todd/Ginger, Rice, Susan (2005). A Guide to Becoming a Travel Professional. p. 244.
- Galileo 360(degrees). V1 Course book. Galileo Travelport. 2009. p. 9.
- Galileo 360(degrees). V1 Course book. Galileo Travelport. 2009. p. 12.
- Galileo 360(degrees). V1 Course book. Galileo Travelport. 2009. 2009. pp. 13–16.
- "What is a Fare Basis (or fare code)?". Businesstravel.about.com. 2014-03-03. Retrieved 2014-04-24.