Glossary of flying terms

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A useful A-Z of common terms

Air passes: Airlines in many countries offer special fares for tourists to fly between a number of airports, usually, but not always within that country.

Amendments: These cover changes to dates of travel, class of travel, name changes either prior to or after commencement of travel. All fares and tickets carry different restrictions regarding these. Many cheaper fares will not allow any changes at all, while most fares will require payment to cover administrative costs in the form of an amendment fee.

Apex: Stands for “advance purchase excursion”. Such tickets can be purchased for a discount directly from the airline or consolidator. However, the term “advanced purchase” strictly applies. From the UK, as a general rule this is 21 or 30 days.

Baggage allowance: This is indicated on the right hand side of your ticket. Economy class passengers generally are allowed 20kg for checked luggage. Travelling to the USA Business Class is around 30-35kg. First Class tends to be up to 40kg. Hand luggage remains pretty much generic: one piece per passenger, restricted in size (especially for short haul flights), and up to 8kg in weight. For larger items such, as windsurfs or bicycles, you should check with the tour operator or airline with which you have booked. Additional charges may occur.

Budget / no-frills airlines: These very popular airlines specialise in short-haul routes at bargain prices. For these low prices the consumer makes a trade off and should be aware that:

  • The flights are often made to and from secondary airports (you should always check)
  • Flight prices often do not include in-flight refreshments/food
  • There is often no numbered seat allocation
  • Cheapest fares are fixed and changes are non-refundable
  • You will tend to get the best prices when you book online. Extra fares may even be charged for telephone bookings

Bumping: Getting bumped can be good or bad! A bump, if you’re lucky can mean a bump up, or upgrade to Business or First Class. However, being bumped usually means you will be unable to fly on the flight your ticket was for as it has been oversold. It is always safest to check in early to avoid this.

Cancellation charges: Most fares sold carry penalties if you wish to cancel your journey. Cancellation fees can be up to 100 per cent of the total ticket cost. It is always advisable to ensure you have travel insurance that covers all eventualities.

Consolidators: Airlines often sell blocks of seats to consolidators who then sell these on to the public at discounted prices. The airlines do not want to be seen to be discounting tickets themselves and therefore use these wholesale agents on their behalf. These tickets are normally restrictive as a number of rules will apply, such as a minimum and maximum stay, the inclusion of a Saturday-night stopover, no changes etc.

Check-in: All airlines request their passengers to check-in well before the scheduled departure time. Usual check in times are: worldwide flights – two hours; short-haul – from 40 minutes to one hour. Check-in can usually be carried out in a number of ways: in person at an airport desk, at a self-service kiosk in the airport, online and by telephone. For full information about the various methods for checking-in, see our travel tips.

Class of travel: The days of First and Economy Classes only are long over… Many of the airlines are now reducing their rates for luxury travel, and even creating new classes.

Here is a breakdown:

Economy: We all know this one. Most long-haul scheduled flights provide you with a meal and a drink for no charge. Comfort varies dramatically from airline to airline.

Premium Economy: This new class has been introduced by a number of airlines, such as Virgin, and EVA Air. The logic behind the new class is to provide passengers with a slightly bigger seat with increased legroom in a smaller, and more exclusive cabin, though costs are still significantly lower than for Business or First Class. For more information on some of the perks available, see our travel tip Economy vs Premium Economy.

Business: The jump here is quite spectacular. The first benefit is that you can check-in later at a dedicated desk (avoiding the queues). You can then relax in the comfort of the airline’s lounge where you will find complimentary drinks, snacks, newspapers and quiet. There’s no rushing or queuing to board your flight. Your flight seat will usually be a cradle that reclines to a virtually horizontal position, which has legroom up to 60in. The in-flight staff are dedicated to your cabin, and when you arrive your luggage will be among the first off the carousel.

First: Travelling First is a luxury few can afford. Most airlines now offer a totally exclusive First-Class lounge and when you fly you are treated to more space, high quality food and attentive service.

ConfirmationIt is normally your responsibility to confirm your flight, before your outbound and inbound journeys. Confirmation is best done directly with the airline 72 hours in advance of the flight time. This is particularly important with your return journey where failure to reconfirm can result in the in-validation of your ticket. Some airlines do not require you do this procedure, but it never hurts to contact whoever your flying with; in case of delays, time changes etc.

Direct, indirect and non-stop flights

Of the above, non-stop flights are the quickest and most desirable – A to B, simple.

A direct flight may stop en-route to your chosen destination, but you do not have to get off. The main advantage here is that you are less likely to lose your bags.

Indirect flights mean leaving your plane at some stage during your trip either when your plane re-fuels or you change planes entirely. Often you will find that these should be the cheapest flights but research well as many hours waiting around an airport may not be your idea of fun.

Indirect flights are normally operated by a foreign airline, for example flying with Air France to Mexico from London would mean a change of aircraft in Paris.

Lost or damaged ticketsScheduled airline tickets are deemed as cash and should you loose your ticket it is likely that you will need to purchase a further ticket to travel. A refund is only likely through insurance or if the ticket is found.

Multi-leg or complex itinerary tickets: These are air-tickets that fly not just from A to B but go via a number of other destinations. For example, you may want to fly to New York to stay for a few days, fly on to Los Angeles, where you stay for three weeks before spending a week in Mexico City and flying back to London.

You can book these tickets online but there are a lot of factors involved in getting the best price. The more complex the journey then the more your plans may change en-route – some agents have offices around the world making it easier to make changes to your itinerary.

No shows: Arriving late, or missing your flight, for whatever reason, can prove disastrous if you have a ticket with no refund or exchange. Discounted fares cannot usually be rebooked, and even if it can, it may involve a financial penalty. If you have valid travel insurance you may be covered for a missed departure. This will depend on the nature of your policy.

Open jaw: This is a return ticket that allows you to return from different points. For example, flying from London to Washington but returning Los Angeles – London. The distance between the two points is a surface sector, and must be arranged by the passenger at his/her own expense.

Open return: A return ticket with no specified date for return travel. This is booked with the airline, and usually involves an administration fee. However, it is very important to check until when the ticket is valid. If you have passed the validity date, the ticket is useless.

Overselling: It is the job of an airline to make their planes as full as possible. It is a fact of life that as many as 10 per cent of passengers fail to show up for a flight. Airlines can compensate for this by “overselling” seats on planes. This tactic is very effective, but when everyone does show, the flight can become oversold. Rather obviously passengers arriving late are the first to be “bumped”. So the lesson is…don’t be late. However, if you are bumped, you should be offered compensation in exchange for catching a later flight.

Stand-by: This is a service where you wait at the airport until the next seat becomes available on your chosen route. Stand-by tickets used to be a cheap way to travel, sad to say those days are over. Nowadays stand-by applies more to employees of airlines who can use up available seats very cheaply.

Round-the-world fares: Round-the-world tickets are multi-leg tickets to be used worldwide. Most tickets are usually fully flexible and valid for one year. Round-the-world tickets are great value for money, and allow you ease of travel. However, it is very important you understand the fare rules. Cheaper tickets can be less flexible – making changes may result in heavily penalties. It is really worth doing some research.

Travel validity: Tickets are only ever valid for up to a maximum of one year. Discounted tickets can be valid for much shorter periods. Always check the small-print.

Glossary of flying terms was last modified: July 2nd, 2015 by Oonagh Shiel
Author: Oonagh Shiel (3400 posts)

Content Manager at Cheapflights whose travel life can be best summed up as BC (before children) and PC (post children). We only travel during the school holidays so short-haul trips and staycations are our specialities!