The airline industry is certainly one industry that learned a long time before other industries the value of highly specialized pricing algorithms and pricing options. How many times have you been on an airline flight where the person sitting next to you has paid more (or perhaps less) than you have? I can tell you, I've been on plenty of flights like that.
In addition to dynamic pricing algorithms and strategies, which allow airlines to try and optimize seating prices based on how high the demand is for certain cities, flights, dates, times, and seats, the airlines have also used different fare basis and fare codes to differentiate all those similar seats on a single plane.
What's a Fare Basis?
Fare basis, also known as fare codes, are the letters or numbers that airlines use to define the rules that are associated with different types of airfares or tickets. What airlines (or gate agents) can or can't do for you in terms of changing tickets, upgrading you, or making changes to your ticket is frequently controlled by the specific codes and fare basis that your ticket is based on. If you're thinking of pushing your luck by demanding extra services, it might be helpful to consult this list of the top 10 myths about airline travel.
Cracking the Fare Basis Code
Fare basis (or fare codes) are typically identified by a character, such as F, A, J, or Y. For example, letters such as "L, M, N, Q, T, V, and X" usually refer to discounted economy class tickets, while code such as J and C refer to business class, and F to first class.
Usually, after the first letter specifying the fare class (such as Q or Y) is another set of characters. These follow-on characters usually specify other characteristics of the ticket, such as refundability or minimum stay requirements. Some airlines only have one or two characters (such as "YL") while other have more.
Your itinerary may contain multiple fare codes, if you have multiple flights booked. However, keep in mind that if you have an itinerary made up of multiple fare codes, you may be restricted by the limitations of the most restrictive portion. So, if one segment of your journey is non-refundable, and the next segment isn't, the entire ticket may be non-refundable. It's best to check with your travel agent or airline representative to know for sure.
Business travelers looking for the best fare, may want to consult our list of the best ways to get the best air fares.