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Last Week Airlines 101: Fare Class

If you haven’t read last week’s post about fare class you’ll need to go back read that to understand Fare Buckets.

Last week we discussed all the different fare classes for a one-way united ticket from PHX to MCO on October 1, 2013. This week are going to change it up a little and use July 1, 2013 as an example. So last week we discussed “S” being the cheapest published fare in the market. Great we want to purchase said “S” fare for PHX-MCO on July 1, 2013. So we go on to and search for lowest fare flights we see this flight:

However, we also see this flight:

The only difference between the two flights is the timings. We know you can buy an “S” fare for 284.00, so we should be able to buy it on the second flight except we can’t. The reason why we can’t is because there are not enough seats in the correct fare bucket for the second option to price out at $284.00. So, when purchasing a ticket, we need to match up a published fare with available seats for that particular fare.

From last week we know that each airline has a discrete number of fares, and each of those fares price differently. This week we’ll add on to that, now each fare is also attached to a discrete number of seats. So, not only does there have to be that specific fare in the market, here a $284.00 “S” fare but also each flight has to have more than zero “S” seats to sell. The best way I can impart this idea is by using a metaphor.

Here’s a picture of a champagne tower. The bottle of champers represents the flight, the champers the actual seats for sale, and glasses each fare bucket. So at the top we have most expensive fare, the bottom the cheapest fare bucket (S in our case). United obviously wants to sells more expensive fares, so they will make more seats available at the higher fare (the overflowing glass at the top) while the deeply discounted fares may only have a few or even no seats in the bucket (the partially filled and empty glasses at the bottom). It’s basic economics the cheaper the fare, the fewer seats United is willing to sell at that fare price.

So again using let’s look at the data for these specific flights:

Here you see the flight availability for the “S” fare option. On the right you see the fare classes and the number of seats assigned to that bucket. So for our flight, you look at the S fare and there are at least 9 seats in that fare bucket. I say at least because there maybe more than that amount, however the data field only goes up to 9. You can also see that the order fare buckets is not alphabetical, they are organized by class of service then by price. So F, A, Z, P, are first class fares and Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G, N are coach fares. Now, there are seats in the “T” bucket but there is no “T” fare in the market so we cannot buy those seats.

Compare that one to the other flight paring:

Here you see the “S” fare bucket has no seats, in fact neither does the “W” fare bucket. The cheapest seats you can buy are “V” fare bucket seats which matches up with our screenshot from above. The “V” fare is the cheapest fare with available seats for that flight paring. So, if you want on that flight, you’ll have to spend a little more money and purchase a V fare.

So, in order to purchase ticket on United Airlines or really any airline there has to be a published fare and seats available for sale for that fare. Alas, that is not the end of it; next week we will discuss routing rules and stopovers.

Until next week,

Happy Travels



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