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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.


A typical wide-body jet plane seat plan (Asiana Boeing 747-400)
Economy class cabin
Business class cabin
First class cabin

Airlines traditionally have three travel classes, although many airlines are eliminating first class from international flights and now offer business class as the highest level of service:

  • First Class, generally the most expensive and most comfortable accommodations available.
  • Business Class, high quality, traditionally purchased by business travellers (sometimes called executive class)
  • 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 or travel class), basic accommodation, commonly purchased by leisure travellers

Three-cabin configuration is found on international and transcontinental flights. 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 the USA (domestic).

Some airlines merge their international First and Business classes into a premium business product with the consequence of lost exclusivity (for example, Continental Airlines has 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 Class service. Some airlines, such as Japan Airlines and Lufthansamarker, offer flights with only a Business Class service.

Most low-cost carriers and regional affiliates of major 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 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 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

  • F, A, P, R

On USA 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 was no longer used after the retirement of the Concorde, however with the introduction of the new Airbus A380, Singapore Airlines and Qantas have re-introduced the R class to distinguish a higher class than regular First Class. The A and P 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:
  • F = Full-Fare First Class
  • P = First Class
  • A = First Class Discounted
  • R = First Class Suites (currently only Airbus A380), and formerly Supersonic (Concorde),

  • (a lowercase "n" after any class code indicates Night Service)

Business class codes

  • C, J, D, I, Z

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

The codes in short:
  • C, J = Full-fare Business Class,
  • D, I, Z = Business Class Discounted,
  • (a lowercase "n" after any class code indicates Night Service)

Economy class codes

  • Full fare: Y, B
  • Standard fare: M, H, N
  • Special or discount fares: G, K, L, o, Q, 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 O, T, Q 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. However on some airlines W or X is used for frequent flier program award redemptions.

Airlines that offer premium economy cabins have also specified certain codes for fares in the upgraded economy cabin.

Premium economy codes:
  • E, H, K, O, U, W, T

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 utilize price discrimination over commoditization.

The codes in short:
  • B = * Q = Economy/Coach Discounted


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.


In the United Statesmarker train classes emulate the airlines, although airlines probably took the class levels from trains of the time when they were coming of age (e.g. first, business, coach), trains with sleeper cars have additional levels.


In Canada, VIA Rail's train classes are sometimes a bit different than what we're used to with the airline codes. A full fare Comfort (economy) class ticket uses the Y code, but if you're traveling on a 'Special Fare' the code is YS, and does not permit changes or refunds. Sleeper fares use codes like FS (Single Bedroom, HEP Cars), or PD (Double bedroom, double occupancy).

The codes in short:
  • Y = Comfort (Economy) Full Fare
  • Q = Comfort (Economy) Discount Fare
  • V = Comfort (Economy) Supersaver Fare
  • YS= Comfort (Economy) Special Fare

  • J = VIA 1 Regular Fare
  • JS= VIA 1 Discount Fare
  • JX= VIA 1 Supersaver Fare (Sometimes called the 'Value Fare')

SLEEPER CLASSES (Another letter usually follows the class code depending on the occupancy)
  • D = Renaissance Double Bedroom (Standard)
  • Z = Renaissance Double Bedroom (Deluxe

  • W = HEP Car Berth (Upper)
  • S = HEP Car Berth (Lower)

  • F = HEP Car Single Bedroom
  • P = HEP Car Double Bedroom
  • R = HEP Car Triple Bedroom


Italian passenger carriage, showing a "2" denoting Second Class.

There are generally two classes, known as "First Class" and "Second Class", or the equivalent in the local language. In Britain Second Class is known as "Standard Class". Third class was abolished in most European countries in the 1950's.

A convention used by most European railway companies is that the First Class section of a train is marked in yellow, usually yellow band above the doors and / or the windows. First class may be complete carriages, or may be at one end of a carriage, the other end being second class. Second Class compartments usually have "2+2" seating (2 seats each side of the aisle), first class are "2+1". In Britain and France, some short-distance Suburban trains use 2+3 for Second Class and 2+2 for First Class.

Metro, Suburban and local trains are sometimes Second Class only. First Class only trains were common up to the 1960's (see Trans Europ Express), but are now rare. High Speed trains often charge more than slower speed trains on the same route, but still have First and Second Class seats.


During the Victorian era, in the United Kingdommarker, 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). From the 1870s onwards, Second Class (equivalent to either Premium Economy or business class) was gradually abolished and First Class and Third Class were retained. The reason that Second Class was abolished and Third Class retained was that the Railway Regulation Act 1844 required a Third Class service to be offered. After nationalisation, Third Class was re-named Second Class, which in turn was renamed Standard Class in the 1980s. A coach with accommodation for more than one class is called a Composite Coach.

Ocean liners

Before cruise ships dominated the passenger ship trade, ocean liners had classes of service, often divided into First Class, Second Class, and Steerage.


In Mexico, bus services often have designated levels of service, the top of which is de lujo or classe lujo, followed by plus clase, primera clase, and, finally, segunda clase.

See also

  1. Air New Zealand fare rules
  2. British Airways Executive Club tier fares
  3. Virgin Atlantic Earning Mileage Rules

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