Fun with Fare Basis Codes

US Airways

Nothing like a little fun with fare basis codes to show my true dorkiness. A few years back, I worked in airline pricing for America West. There was something about arriving at work at 6a that made us a little loopy. We amused ourselves with things like funny airport code combos (try a flight from Fresno to Fukuoka to see what I mean) and fare basis codes that spelled things out.

Fare basis codes can be up to 8 letters and numbers in length. They are the unique identifier that is used to tie fare rules with fare amounts, and the first letter is almost always the fare class (eg F, Y, B, M, etc). Following that fare class, you get a jumble of letters and numbers identifying things like advance purchase, refundability, minimum stay, etc.

The full fares tended to have pretty simple codes since there are no restrictions to note. Southwest’s full fare, for example, is YL. America West’s full coach was Y6. But my favorite was United’s. It was YUA in coach, but in First Class, they used the FUA fare. Believe me, there were plenty of times that I chanted that to myself after seeing some of the pricing moves they made.

Sometimes, as the fare rules get more complicated, fare bases become unintentionally comical. For example, check out the US Airways fares from LAX to SYD these days.

07_07_25 Blowme

You may have noticed #28. Yup, it’s the BLOWME fare! Fantastic. Of course, this fare is booked in B class, it’s a Low season fare, and it’s One Way. See, with that lethal combo, you already have “BLOW” up there. Not sure what the ME means, but it’s on several fares so there’s clearly a reason for it.

The reality is that US Airways probably doesn’t pay much attention to these fares. They only fly to Australia through a codeshare, so there aren’t going to be too many people buying these fares. That’s why this fare probably skated by without anyone catching it. Great stuff.

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14 comments on “Fun with Fare Basis Codes

  1. Sadly, you can’t get this very detailed info anymore (as far as I know) without knowing a travel agent or someone at the airlines. Back in the early days when you could access eAAsy SABRE on Prodigy (whoa, flashback) you could get all this raw info, but no longer.

    You can get pretty close using FareCompare.com. Rick Seaney, CEO of the company, pointed me to the following two links:

    For fares for all airlines in a market:
    http://www.farecompare.com/flights/-LAX/-SYD/market.html

    For fares and schedule info for one airline in the market:
    http://www.farecompare.com/flights/-US/-LAX/-SYD/schedule.html

    (Just replace “LAX” and “SYD” with the cities you want. And in the second one, replace “US” with the airline you want. They must be in all caps.)

    This gives you the lowest roundtrip and one way fares, but you can’t see the full rules for each one from here. Still, it’s a great resource.

  2. I believe the DOT has I think put an end to this, but airlines used to send messages — often unkind — to one another via their fare codes, usually in response to anotehr airline’s pricing move. It was not uncommon to see fare codes along the lines of BAP7FUXX, with XX replaced by the two-character code for the “offending” airline.

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