What the Airfare Class of Service Letters Mean

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Airfare Tickets. Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

If you've ever bought a plane ticket and noticed an odd group of letters on it, chances are those were service letters. These letters indicate the class of service for your plane ticket as well as the type of fare that was purchased. And, since the classes may vary from airline to airline, understanding what the class of service letters mean can be difficult.

Class of Service Letters

When you see a group of letters on your flight ticket or receipt, they usually refer to the class or kind of ticket you bought as well as what perks or extra costs may come with that fare. Though many of the airlines have similar class indicators, these are not universal so be sure to always double check your ticket.

  • F, A and P are the letters that indicate a full fare First Class ticket.
  • J and C represent full fare Business or Executive Class ticket.
  • W represents premium economy ticket.
  • Y is almost universally used for full fare economy tickets.
  • B, H, L, M, and V are just some of the letters indicating subclasses (reduced, restricted, and/or discounted fares). These letters vary by airline and in value. On one airline B may be indicative of a more expensive ticket. On another airline, L may represent a ticket booked for a seat sale. Check the fine print to make sure you understand what specific ticket you purchased.
  • X, U, and R commonly refer to a fare purchased from a consolidator. Consolidators are companies that buy tickets directly from airlines at special discount prices, and then resell them to travel agents or customers for prices much lower than published fares. These sales can be as much as 20 to 70 percent off the sticker price. Tip: For the best deals, look for consolidator tickets on international flights.

Fare classes are used by airline reservation systems and travel agents to sell seats on a plane, helping them keep track of which fare classes are still available for purchase.

Where to Find the Class of Service Letters

If you have booked a discounted fare and are interested in the subclass you are holding, check the letter immediately following the flight number on your ticket. It may also fall under the heading of Booking Class or some similar, shortened phrase. If you happen to see an E after the service letter, this is a ticket with an excursion fare, which means that there is a minimum or maximum stay attached to your destination or trip. This typically only happens if you book an itinerary through a travel agent or cruise line.

Keep in Mind

As with all flight classes, it's important to know what you are getting for the price. Economy tickets (Y service letter) usually indicate less flexibility with changing tickets as well as restrictions such as not being able to select your seat ahead of time, no free checked bags, and so on. On the other hand, unrestricted fares are some of the most expensive tickets, but they provide conveniences like full refunds and flexibility to change flight itineraries. This is especially beneficial for business travelers who may need to extend a work trip or go to multiple destinations.