Travel class

From TrainSpottingWorld, for Rail fans everywhere

A travel class is a quality of accommodation on public transport. The accommodation could be a seat or a cabin for example. Higher travel classes are more comfortable and more expensive.


Airlines traditionally have three travel classes (although now more longhaul airlines are introducing the Premium Economy concept):

  • First Class, the highest quality of accommodation available
  • Business Class, high quality, traditionally purchased by business travellers
  • Premium Economy, slightly better Economy Class seating (greater distance between rows of seats; the seats themselves may or may not be wider than regular economy class)
  • Economy Class (also known as coach class), basic accommodation, commonly purchased by leisure travellers

However, with premium travelers choosing private planes and businesses becoming more fare-sensitive, the distinctions between classes have become blurred.

Three-cabin configuration is usually found only on international flights. (An exception to this generalization is United's transcontinental "p.s." service.) For shorter distances, most airlines fly a two-cabin plane, featuring only Business and Economy Class cabins. The short-haul Business Class cabin is usually designated as "First Class" in North America (domestic).

Some airlines merge their international First and Business classes into a premium business product (for example, Continental Airlines have a BusinessFirst class), whereas others supplement the Business Class cabin with a Premium Economy class cabin. Some flights operated by Singapore Airlines (using their Airbus A340-500 aircraft) offer only Business and Premium Economy Class service. Some airlines, such as Japan Airlines and Lufthansa, offer flights with only a Business Class service.

Most low-cost carriers only provide an Economy Class. The costs of extra services and amenities afforded to the premium cabins is eliminated, and more seats can be installed on an aircraft.

Fare class

Within each travel class there are often different fare classes, relating to ticket or reservation restrictions and used to enhance opportunities for price discrimination. Passengers within the same travel class receive the same quality of accommodation and may indeed sit next to each other; however, the price or restrictions they face for that accommodation will vary depending on the fare class. Fare classes may also vary by how far ahead the ticket must be purchased, or how long the length of stay is. For example, full fare economy class passengers (booking code Y) are usually able to make changes to their reservation, while discount economy class passengers in the lowest booking code usually have tickets that are non-refundable, non-upgradeable, non-transferable, or non-changeable without a hefty fee.

Airline fare classes are commonly indicated by letter codes, but the exact hierarchy and terms of these booking codes vary greatly from carrier to carrier.

First class codes

  • A, F, P, R, Z

On domestic flights, F commonly indicates first class on a two-cabin plane. If a three-cabin aircraft is used, P (for "premium") may be used to distinguish the higher level of service in first class. The R code indicated supersonic transport and is no longer used with the retirement of the Concorde. The A and Z codes may indicate a first class ticket whose fare is reduced due to restrictions on refunds, advance reservation requirements, or other terms.

The codes in short:

  • A = First Class Discounted,
  • F = First Class,
  • P = First Class Premium,
  • R = Supersonic (Concorde),
  • Z = Business Class Discounted
  • (a lowercase "n" after any class code indicates Night Service)

Business class codes

  • C, J, D, I

On many airlines, C or J indicate full fare business class, whereas discounted and thus restricted and un-upgradeable fares are represented by D or I.

The codes in short:

  • C = Business Class,
  • D = Business Class Discounted,
  • J = Business Class Premium
  • (a lowercase "n" after any class code indicates Night Service)

Economy class codes

  • Full fare: Y, B, H
  • Standard fare: M, N
  • Special or discount fares: G, I, K, L, O, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X

On most airlines, unrestricted economy ticket is booked as a Y fare. Full fare tickets with restrictions on travel dates, refunds, or advance reservations are commonly classed as B, H, or M, although some airlines may use S, W, or others. Heavily discounted fares, commonly T or W, will not permit cabin upgrades, refunds, or reservation changes, may restrict frequent flyer program eligibility, and/or impose other restrictions. Other fare codes such as X are restricted for use by consolidators, group charters, or travel industry professionals.

Most low-cost carriers have greatly simplified the fare classes they use to a handful of cases, unlike the dozens employed by a traditional airline. While some traditional carriers have followed, others continue to prefer price discrimination over commoditization.

The codes in short:

  • B = Economy/Coach Discounted
  • E = Shuttle Service (No reservation allowed), or Economy/Coach Discounted
  • G = Conditional Reservation
  • H = Economy/Coach Discounted
  • K = Economy/Coach Discounted
  • L = Economy/Coach Discounted
  • M = Economy/Coach Discounted
  • N = Economy/Coach Discounted
  • Q = Economy/Coach Discounted
  • R = Economy/Coach Heavily discounted
  • S = Economy/Coach
  • T = Economy/Coach Discounted, or Premium
  • U = Shuttle Service (No res. needed/Seat guaranteed)
  • V = Economy/Coach Discounted
  • W = Economy/Coach Discounted
  • Y = Economy/Coach
  • (a lowercase "n" after any class code indicates Night Service)


Trains often have first class (the higher class) and second class (known as standard class in the UK). For trains with sleeping accommodation, there may be more levels of luxury.


During the Victorian era, in the United Kingdom, most trains had three classes of accommodation: First Class (for Upper-class people); Second Class (for Middle-class people); Third Class (for Working-class people). With the demise of the class system, Second Class was abolished and First Class and Third Class were retained. Later, Third Class was re-named Standard Class. A coach with accommodation for more than one class is called a Composite Coach.

External links

de:Buchungsklasse fr:Classe (marketing)