I’ve managed to beat the airline systems
and save as much as thousands of
dollars on a ticket.
The key to improving your travel
life is creating a seamless journey. Try
to resolve any potential problems in
advance, so you can avoid the hassle
and frustration of the airport experience. Keep an eye on any schedule
changes your airline might have made
weeks before your flight, and make
sure your ticket is reissued, if necessary.
If you are flying on partner-carriers,
call to verify that they have your ticket
number and assign you a seat.
Learn how to predict flight delays and
cancellations hours before departure by
tracking your aircraft and matching gate
information, and how to get rebooked
on a different flight most efficiently,
without waiting in long lines.
Finally, learn how to secure the
comfort and luxury of First and Business
Class at coach prices by mastering the
frequent-flier game, which has become
almost as complex as the entire air travel
system. Carefully choose the best frequent-flier program for you, and learn
how to achieve and maintain elite airline
status, how to design the most effective
upgrade strategies, how to maximize the
miles you earn, and how to book the
best airline award tickets.
What determines the price of a plane
ticket? A combination of airline data
published and updated by each carrier
through the Airline Tariff Publishing
Company (ATPCO). The airline data
has two main components: fares and
availability, or tariffs and inventory, in
airline lingo. Both of these pillars are
built on a foundation of fare codes,
for which the airlines use letters of
the alphabet. Each carrier uses different codes, though most of them follow
some similar rules; for example, full
fare is usually signified by F in First
Class, C or J in Business, and Y in
coach. Service classes are not the same
CAREFULLY CHOOSE THE BEST FREQUENT-FLIER PROGRAM FOR YOU,
AND LEARN HOW TO ACHIEVE AND
MAINTAIN ELITE AIRLINE STATUS,
DESIGN THE MOST EFFECTIVE
UPGRADE STRATEGIES, MAXIMIZE
THE MILES YOU EARN, AND BOOK THE
BEST AIRLINE AWARD TICKETS.
as booking classes. First, Business and
Economy are service classes, and they
correspond to the cabins on a plane,
while there are many more booking
classes than just three.
The first pillar of airline data, the
airline tariff, consists of all published
fares between any two cities served
by the publishing carrier or its partners, including their fare bases, allowed
routings and a series of rules, such as
advance-purchase requirements, per-mitted days of the week, and blackout
dates. Typically, the prices published in a
tariff represent only the “base fares” on
a certain route, meaning there are other
components that need to be added—
taxes, fees and surcharges—in order to
arrive at the ticket’s total value.
to produce the ideal fare is a five-step
process that I call the Kralev Method.
• Identify the lowest fare
• Determine how practical and conve-
nient it is
• Make sure we comply with the fare rules
• Find booking-class availability
• Match the data.
An airline tariff tells us what is possible if we comply with certain conditions,
but having a published fare on the tariff
doesn’t necessarily mean that we can
get that fare on the specific flights we
want. For that, we need to consult the
flight inventory—the second pillar of
airline data—to see if the booking class
we want is available. By the same token,
availability in a certain booking class on
a flight is useless unless there is a fare on
the tariff with that same code.
Matching data from the tariff and
the inventory and putting it together
As you master various parts of the
air travel system, you will have many
reasons to be proud of yourself. Perhaps
you will beat a fare offered by auto-
mated booking engines or come up with
a brilliant upgrade strategy in the face
of an almost certain sentence to coach.
Some of my proudest moments have
been when I discovered that while flying
in Business Class, I had paid much less
than many Economy passengers.
Nicholas Kralev is the author of Decoding Air Travel: A Guide to Saving on Airfare and Flying in Luxury. He is also the founder and CEO of
Kralev International LLC, a travel consulting
and training company, and a former Financial
Times and Washington Times correspondent.