Passengers view the boarding pass as the document that will give them access to the restricted “passenger only” areas of an airport and allow you to board your flight.
But it is more than that. The boarding pass holds all your travel plans and frequent flyer account details. It is therefore advisable not to throw it away. Shred it instead.
But most importantly, the boarding pass also lets you know whether you have paid the correct airfare for the ticket you are holding.
Buying an air ticket is not as simple as some may think. For example buying a loaf of bread at your local shop will depend on the brand and size. The smallest loaf of bread is priced lower than the largest. In comparison, the airline has economy class, business class and first class.
But, in the airline industry, the airline sets six different prices for the economy class, four different prices for the business class and three different prices for the first class.
The airline will then assign a certain number of seats to each of the six cheapest prices depending on the amount of sales the airline projects to make.
For example, the airline can decide that five economy class seats will be sold at price X for a period of one hour to those who are looking to buy the cheapest economy fares.
Further, the airline places certain conditions on the seats under price X, such as “the flight cannot be cancelled if found to be inconvenient.” Or, “if cancelled, the fare is non-refundable.”
If a traveller feels that these rules are too harsh, then they have the option of buying the ticket at a higher price with fewer restrictions on changes or cancellations.
With these prices set, the airline will monitor the sale of these tickets and observe the behaviour of the buyers and how they respond to the different prices of the fare.
After one hour, the airline will assess the uptake of the tickets. In case they have not been sold, it can decide to lower the price of the ticket to attract buyers. If they get sold out, then the next set of tickets will come up for sale purchase at a different rate — higher or lower or at the same price.
The new price depends on the expiry date of the fare offer, or the actual flight date, to ensure that the airline sells as many seats as possible at the prices (fares) that will give the airline the maximum revenue.
What is a fare booking class therefore? The fare booking classes are the six different prices for the economy class, four different prices for the business class, and three different prices for the first class.
The different prices are usually denoted on your boarding pass using the letters of the alphabet such as F, A and P, which are first class fares; J, R, D and I, which are business class fares; and Y, B, H, M, K, L, W, S, N, Q and O, which are economy fares.
For example, this is what a one-way quote from a travel agent for your first class ticket (if your name is Barack Hussein Obama) could look like (pictured below).
The letter “A” that appears after the flight number denoted as “EK 218” is what identifies the fare booking class.
If this is a fare that is agreeable to you, you would then ask your travel agent to issue the ticket.
Once you buy your ticket, ensure that you check-in online and receive your boarding pass.
On your boarding pass, you will see your fare booking class on the right hand side indicated in the illustration below under “zone.”
If the fare booking class letter that appeared on your quote does not match the one on the boarding pass, then it means that you probably paid a much higher fare than you should have or in a rare case, a lower fare — making this a moot case for you.
To make sure, and if your travel agent had not discussed issuing your ticket on a different fare class than the one they had quoted to you, then you should demand an explanation and perhaps a refund from your travel agent.
There are situations where a travel agent may quote you a particular fare and when they come back to the system to issue your ticket they find that the fare has dropped.
Airlines will usually change their fares according to demand and supply and so a case of fares changing downwards or upwards is quite common. It is therefore only ethical that the travel agent passes on the lower fare to the customer should they find it when issuing your ticket.
Wanjiru Catherine is the CEO of Saffara Ltd, www.saffara.com, a travel management company