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Recently I had to travel by Singapore Airlines (Economy class). But when I tried to change the return date of my ticket, customer care office informed me that there are no more seats in my class for the expected date. They ask me to pay some extra few dollars to book the seat on the day I need. Then I asked him what is the new class my seat is under. He said it is also Economy class. I was surprised, he explained me a long description. But as summary I understood, there are inner categories of seats inside economy class and, air ticket price change according to particular category.

Is this true or are they cheating me to get few more dollars?

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Not exactly in the same category as Mark Mayo described, but still noteworthy when booking mid-distance flights is that some airlines such as Cathay Pacific now offer "Economy Premium" seats. Those are more expensive, but specially for 5-6 hours dayflights, where a flat-bed business class seat is not needed, those can offer a good alternative to Economy seats. –  uncovery Sep 4 '13 at 3:28
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@uncovery It's not just Cathay, it's pretty common across the world and for all distance ranges. –  Gilles Sep 4 '13 at 7:17
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"Had to travel Singapore Airlines?" To me that sounded like, one "had to eat caviar, truffles, and sip fine wine." :) –  Affable Geek Sep 4 '13 at 16:02
    
Also see: Flight/booking code explanation –  Ankur Banerjee Sep 5 '13 at 8:53
    
related (prices for diff fare categories) travel.stackexchange.com/questions/2952/… –  Kate Gregory Sep 5 '13 at 15:11
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3 Answers 3

It sounds crazy, but yes, there are multiple classes within the standard first, business, and economy.

Each airline has their own method for dividing this up, but with Singapore they have:

Suites/First: RFAP O

Business: CDJZ I

Economy: SYBMHWUEKGQNVT X

So they've divided it up into a lot of classes!

What's the difference? Well from the same link:

For ex-SIN market, the order should be:
V = special promo fares,
G = Group fares,
N = GV4 fares,
Q = GV2 fares,
E = FIT 1 mth fare/ 14 days max for S.E.A. countries,
K = Interline Fares with other airlines, e.g. AA, TN, PS
M = RTW Fare
Y = 12 mths fare, can do open-jaw,
S = same as Y fare/ one-way fare
J = the restrictive business fare, 12 mths
C,Z = flexi business fare/one-way fare, 12 mths
F = no min/max stay
R = Suites class on a380 only

X, I, O = award redemption on the respective classes.

Sounds bizarre, after all, it's not location, it's more for pricing. Some of them are non-refundable tickets, some are cheaper, V is reserved for special promotions with LOTS of restrictions.

On your ticket there's usually an indication of what class of economy your ticket was, so check that and then match the terms and conditions of that with what they did. If your ticket says charges may apply for changes, then yeah, that's expected. If there are no restrictions on your ticket, then they were possibly 'cheating' you.

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There's way more than 5 fare classes! This site lists 20 for Singapore Airlines, of which the following are all Economy: SYBMHWUEKGQNVTX sqtalk.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-4855.html –  jpatokal Sep 4 '13 at 4:25
    
@jpatokal just noticed the link I had is quite old, so there used to be 5, but it's grown now, evidently. I'll update the answer with your link, thanks! –  Mark Mayo Sep 4 '13 at 4:40
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I wish the R class for everyone here, forever, Amen. –  MeNoTalk Sep 5 '13 at 1:08
    
Are these the same as "fare class"? Or is that a totally different kettle of fish? –  hippietrail Sep 5 '13 at 13:20
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As @markmayo already explained there are a multitude of classes. It is not as bizarre as it sounds. There is a really nice Dutch documentary that explains this quite well. Unfortunately it is in dutch, but the non-dutch speaker among us could look at the first 25 seconds of the documentary. There the reporters ask passengers on a flight from Amsterdam to London what they paid for their trip. They are all flying in the same class yet the numbers range from 86 Euro till 684 Pounds.

Factors that explain this variation in prices are:

  • Demand and availability dictate the fares, e.g. They might drop the price to attract more passengers decrease a potential loss when flying with an empty plane.
  • Last minute tickets might lead to other passenger being rebook on another flight, where the passenger on the last minute actually compensate for this rebooking.
  • The day and time you fly. There are prime times (early morning, early afternoon on short hop flight, red eye vs day time flight) where prices will be higher then on less fortunate time frames. Yet the seat remain the same.
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Yes, there are premium economy seats. These are more expensive than economy seats but nowhere near as expensive as business class. This category may be known as “premium economy”, “economy plus”, “economy comfort”, or other more or less exotic names. Premium economy can often have fare gradation depending on the cancellation and changing restrictions just like normal economy fares.

The most common feature of premium economy is having more legroom. The premium economy seats are often on the rows with the emergency exits that have to have more space in front of them anyway — so the airline charges for that. Some airlines (especially those with no preassigned seats) charge extra for sitting in the front row(s) so that you can disembark first.

Depending on the airline, premium economy may offer all kinds of amenities. Sometimes the seats are better, no just with more legroom but also reclining further, wider, with a better entertainment system, etc. You may also get better service in the form of priority check-in, lounge access, increased luggage allowance, etc. This varies a lot between airlines and even between routes.

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This has nothing to do with the OP's situation, where the travel agent is talking about seat availability in various fare classes (buckets) for Economy. Also, Singapore Airlines no longer offers premium economy on any of its flights. –  jpatokal Sep 4 '13 at 12:20
    
@jpatokal I don't know whether this is the case for the asker, but premium economy does fall into different fare classes, at least with some airlines. –  Gilles Sep 4 '13 at 13:29
    
This answer is correct, but it only talks about one little single subclass of economy (premium). –  MeNoTalk Sep 5 '13 at 1:13
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Generally it's a different class to Economy. He's asking about inner categories of Economy class itself. The agent confirmed that it's the same class (See OP's post); they would have told him he was getting upgraded if it was PE, I'd assume... –  Mark Mayo Sep 5 '13 at 1:23
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