Know What The Letter Codes On Your Airline Ticket Mean

Embedded in the gobbledygook of letters and numbers on your airline ticket is a secret letter code that lets airline personnel know what kind of passenger you are and what you paid for your ticket. They can use these to quickly determine whether you should be the first or the last to get bumped, and whether you can get a seat upgrade. Here’s a quick guide to deciphering what the letter abbreviations on your airline ticket mean. Find out why “Y” gets the perks and “Q” gets the shaft.

Airline Tickets, Booking Class & Abbreviation [Airticket-us]


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  1. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    Heh, that list leaves out the “SSS” code. I call it the “Sucky Special Screening” flag.

    Get it all the time, too. :(

  2. rpm773 says:

    “D” means “Stand up and wait to board the plan when they call group ‘A'”.

    • DanRydell says:

      No, boarding group D means stand up and board the plane when they call group A. They don’t wait for their group, they get on the plane at the first opportunity to ensure they have space in the overhead bin for their carry-on AND the laptop bag (personal item) that is supposed to go under the seat in front of them.

  3. Holybalheadedchrist! says:

    I had a security guy say to me, a few years back, “Didn’t you see that ‘SSS’ on your ticket? What did you think it meant?” I said “Super Special Service,” but he didn’t laugh. In fact, that was the guy who told me to flip the pages of the book I was going to read on the plane. Seriously? Does anybody but Maxwell Smart hide anything there?

  4. fs2k2isfun says:

    Actually those codes vary based on airline. Pretty much the only thing that’s fixed across all airlines is Y is full fare economy and F is full fare first class.

    • invisibelle says:

      This. On airlines like SWA where there’s only one booking class, many of the fare codes are condensed into one type.

  5. stevenpdx says:

    Wow, that’s some old information in there. Trump Shuttle? Hasn’t been been around for about 20 years.

    • Grungo says:

      Shut up you. I’m flying supersonic class from Paris to New York next Thursday, and when I get there I’m getting together with all my buddies to watch the new Seinfeld.

    • Brink006 says:

      America West airlines! Some people in PHX are shedding a tear over that one.

  6. suez says:

    I suspected this happened after the one time I bought a ticket via Priceline, as opposed to all the other times I’ve bought from other services. I sat in O’Hare for 9 hours watching as my name DROPPED lower and lower on the stand-by list ’til the point it disappeared completely. That’s when I marched down to their main counter and complained to a manager–and was given a seat on the next flight within 10 minutes.

    • fs2k2isfun says:

      You were not a frequent traveler who probably was on a cheap ticket. The better customers get moved to the front of the list. It’s a great perk for those of use who fly lots with the same airline.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      You showed, by buying on Priceline, that your only interest was price (don’t even care that much about time). Translation, you have absolutely zero carrier loyalty, and don’t even make any sort of choice about carriers. No point in trying to get your business.

  7. FrugalFreak says:

    “Find out why “Y” gets the perks and “Q” gets the shaft.” linked article gives codes not an article on explanation.

    • Datruth says:

      Y is full-fare economy, Q is discounted economy. If you’re going to get bumped, or if you’re not eligible for an upgraded seat, chances are you’re a discounted code star:

    • StutiCebriones says:

      Yeah. And it’s bad enough that it was just a laundry list of abbreviations without any explanation; I hate when Consumerist uses a “More” link and there’s no further content on the article page. Just use a “Source” link and be done with it, Ben & Co., OK?

    • minjche says:

      Yeah I was pretty bummed to see a poorly formatted, content lacking page on the other end of the link.

      I’m not familiar with many airline terms, so the listed labels for “Y” and “Q” don’t tell me much.

      -1 Consumerist.

  8. scoobydoo says:

    WOW. What a horrible site. Rips off the BA logo, and looks mostly like an SEO/scam site designed to have large sites (like this one) link to them.

  9. dreamfish says:

    Below is a site devoted to redesigning the boarding pass, given how visually ugly and poorly laid out most airline’s passes are:

  10. SteveZim1017 says:

    and YYZ means you are going to Toronto international airport. home airport to the band RUSH

    • shepd says:

      It also means you are paying the highest taxes in the entire world. YAY!

      “Jeanes specifically referred to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, which has been credited with the world’s highest landing fees since engaging on a $4-billion construction program.”

      Unless the company’s paying, I drive to Buffalo instead. It’s wasteful, but it’s so much cheaper, mostly due to excessive taxes at YYZ. Locally, you can also try YTZ (highly recommended if you can do it), YHM, and YKF (hometown for the win!).

  11. ninabi says:

    And then there are passengers so badly treated they are certain that the code on their ticket is “F-U”.

  12. Urgleglurk says:

    Oh, please. A “secret letter code?” Gimme a break here. It’s just the fare basis code from the tariffs the airlines file with ATPCO. No secret and they’ve been around for several decades. There must be a dozen sites that can translate them for you.

    “Secret letter code.” What is this, Consumerist is going all “Austin Powers” on us?

  13. deadsalmon says:

    This is silly. I work for an airline. Those are just fare codes, used to determine how much a customer paid for their ticket. An airline might use them to decde upgrades, but I’ve never heard of it happening — we go by other things, like frequent flier membership, check-in time, or whatever. Y is almost always the refundable fare, M or N is non-revenue fares, and then it varies a little from there.

    Nothing secret about them.

    • deadsalmon says:

      Oh, and none of those “detailed booking classes” are used in any airline I’m familiar with. “Supersonic”? “Thrift”? How old is this site?