Jun092016

Ever noticed Priceline has frequent-flyer-unfriendly airfare search?

The most important aspect of an airline ticket price for a frequent flyer is knowing the airline ticket ‘fare class’ or ‘booking code’ for your flights. Knowing the fare class letter for your flight segment is often vital for knowing how many frequent flyer miles you earn for your flight.

Problems finding Booking Class in Priceline Searches 2016

Some airline websites do not show fare class when you search and select a fare. You might have to enter all your passenger information before you can even check the fare rules to find the actual booking class for the economy ticket price shown.

This is even more of an issue with Online Travel Agency (OTA) sites like mega-OTA site Priceline and a multitude of small airline booking websites. You can’t access the fare rules to see the flight segment booking classes until after you have registered and filled out online passenger information forms. Priceline even wants your credit card before they show you fare rules and booking code for your ticket.

Screen images from Priceline.com and Expedia.com show the problem and solution.

Priceline ticket Air Berlin New York JFK – Berlin TXL

$670.26  Sat Sep 3 – Sat Sep 10

JFK-TXL $670 Sep3-10 AirBerlin

Hey Priceline, why won’t you show me the fare class?

I like the price, but what is the fare class? Air Berlin economy class H, K, M, L, V, S flight segments earn 100% flight miles in American Airlines AAdvantage.

But, Air Berlin N, Q, O, G, P, E, W flight segments earn 25% flight miles in American Airlines AAdvantage.

JFK-TXL-DUS-JFK = 8,009 miles and 8,009 redeemable AAdvantage miles if you fly economy class H, K, M, L, V, S flight segments.

But, Air Berlin N, Q, O, G, P, E, W flight segments earn only 2,002 redeemable miles.

How much do you value an extra 6,000 frequent flyer miles?

Priceline requires you to enter passenger information before you access any more details about this ticket’s fare class and rules.

Priceline info request before booking code

Google’s ITA Matrix Airfare Search

At this point I would turn to ITA Matrix Airfare Search.

ITA Matrix Airfare Search AB JFK-TXL $652 W class

The fare shown on ITA Matrix airfare search was priced in $900s for Sep 3-10 with Air Berlin, however a similar low fare of $652 round trip for Sep 5-12 was found and booking class is W. Priceline ticket is likely W class too.

Priceline even wants my credit card information on Page 3 of my fare search and I still have no links to ticket rules or any indication of fare class for this ticket.

Priceline booking form page 3

Expedia displays ticket information with fare codes

Expedia fare codes

Expedia shows the fare code for Delta is Economy V in the flight details link seen in my initial fare search for New York to Paris CDG.

This is a good reason to use Expedia and their sites, Travelocity and Orbitz, rather than Priceline when making fare searches. Personally, I like Priceline’s ticket itinerary display the best of the major OTA, but now I realize there is a major consumer-unfriendly aspect to their ticket price displays for frequent flyers.

Why Fare Class is Important

One of the fare classes I commonly look for in 2016 is whether Alaska Airlines flights for a ticket I find in my airfare searches is Economy ‘R’ fare class. Changes in 2016 to American Airlines AAdvantage made Alaska economy R a fare class ineligible for miles earning in AAdvantage. American Airlines gave up their route from my home airport Monterey MRY to Los Angeles LAX for Alaska Airlines partner airline service during the past year. Many of the low fare tickets I see for Monterey to LAX are Alaska ‘R’ class and I need to know what fare class the ticket is in, so I can credit the flight to Alaska Mileage Plan when I buy an Alaska economy R fare class flight.

Learning the importance of fare class letters was an important lesson for me during the first time it really mattered. I made a rookie mistake on my first mileage run in 1999. Buying the wrong booking code for one round trip ticket cost me 100,000 miles. A promotion offered through different Oneworld Alliance members allowed a frequent flyer to earn 100,000 miles by completing five flight segments on five different Oneworld Alliance partners between June 1 and December 31, 1999. (I think those were the promotion dates). My wife and I flew Cathay Pacific Airlines Manchester MAN – AMS Amsterdam, Netherlands on $325 round trip tickets for a less than one hour flight. That ticket was more expensive than any of the other four tickets I purchased to fulfill the Oneworld Alliance 5th Anniversary 100,000 miles promotion.

I would have earned an extra 50,000 bonus miles with American Airlines in my account and my wife’s account if I had paid $425 for the Cathay Pacific  ticket in a higher economy booking class eligible to earn AAdvantage miles. The Cathay Pacific fare code I purchased was not a miles earning fare in American AAdvantage. I paid much closer attention to booking class letters on my tickets after that mistake. Five different Oneworld Airline member flights earned 100,000 bonus miles in AAdvantage. Four member flights earned only 50,000 miles. We did get 100,000 miles in British Airways Executive Club since they counted the Cathay Pacific flight and overall we had a week in Europe flying British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Iberia and bmi on an LHR-MAN-AMS-BCN-AMS-MAN-LHR Christmas week vacation. We had spent Thanksgiving week flying American and Canadian Airlines to Vancouver YVR for our other Oneworld Airline flight segments. Five tickets for about $2,500 and we earned 300,000 miles with British Airways Executive Club and American Airlines AAdvantage.

Had you ever noticed Priceline has frequent flyer unfriendly airfare search pages?

Loyalty Traveler curated Airfare Deals and Google Flights and Kayak Explore tutorials.

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About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. Did not know that but very helpful info. Ric, I really appreciate your updates lately. You have become my new go to site for sales now, even more than TheFlightdeal or other similar sites. I am based in LAX and EP with AA so your searches are very relevant to me. I just purchased the SFO – LIS yesterday for my whole family on BA. Now you have me concerned about the fare class since I am not familiar with BA’s fare class as I should be. First time flying with them.

  2. Relatively minor detail but there wouldn’t have been a OneWorld 5th anniversary promo in 1999 – the alliance was only founded in that year.

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