I'm looking at buying a ticket on a regional airline in Colombia, Ada Aero. The tickets from Medellin to Pereira look like this:

Weird ticket codes

The plane is an old JetStream 32 with only 19 seats and the flight duration is 41 minutes. Hard to believe there are different seat or service types. Going through the booking process, it appears these are simply "Clase tarifaria", with random code names e.g. "Q (QUEBEC)".

Why would anyone not choose the cheapest available option?

  • 5
    These are simply codes that represent different types of tickets, which might be referred to as fare classes, booking classes, fare buckets, or like terms. A seat on any commercial flight might have twenty different prices depending on what restrictions or privileges are applied. See What is a booking class?
    – choster
    Mar 27, 2019 at 21:08
  • In case anyone is wondering about the source, those are from the US Military Call Letters Code. ("Echo" in English) . Mar 28, 2019 at 13:09
  • 3
    The title and the question are completely different.
    – Taladris
    Mar 28, 2019 at 13:46
  • 1
    @Taladris Yes, it's very strange. Call letter codes should only be used when speaking out loud, otherwise they're just noise.
    – user77454
    Mar 28, 2019 at 14:51

2 Answers 2


Why would anyone not choose the cheapest available option?

Click on the "Condiciones" link and compare the results.

You should see different conditions relating to:

  • whether the fare is refundable or changeable or not
  • what the conditions are for refunds or changes, including when you can do so, and associated penalties
  • how long in advance you must buy the ticket
  • whether you can buy single tickets, or only round-trip fares
  • if there's a minimum or maximum stay
  • if you have to stay over a week-end
  • what other fares this one can be combined with for a multi-leg itinerary
  • probably not here, but you may have rules regarding stopovers for longer flights
  • possible routings
  • blackout dates, days of the week...
  • hand luggage and checked luggage allowances
  • and more.

The higher the fare, the more flexible it will be: some people are willing to pay a premium for more flexibility (a fully changeable and refundable flight without penalty), or for a last minute booking, etc. It's usually targeted at business vs. tourist. The former is supposed to be ready to pay more for that, while the latter will care more about price.

In some cases, two fares may have the exact same conditions, and it's just a matter of pricing as Henning Makholm stated: you'll have 4 seats at the cheapest fare, 6 at the next more expensive fare, 2 at the next one, for instance. As the flight fills up, the "buckets" for the cheapest fares become unavailable (as people will pick those), so the price increases: it's just offer and demand at play.

  • Indeed, the reimbursement conditions are different. I followed your suggestion and added a screenshot comparing the legalese. Mar 28, 2019 at 5:38
  • And indeed two of the classes have sold out already (agotada) but are still shown.
    – mdewey
    Mar 28, 2019 at 10:22
  • I see my proposed edit to add the screenshot to this answer has completely disappeared? Mar 29, 2019 at 2:33

Why would anyone not choose the cheapest available option?

They wouldn't -- so most booking sites don't bother showing all the options, and just present the cheapest price for each service class that's still available.

However, the data format that airlines use to inform ticket sellers happens to work in terms of fare classes. The travel agency's computer doesn't get told, "a seat on XY1234 costs $120, but a seat on XY1236 two hours later costs $155". It gets told, "XY1234 can be booked in fare class Q, P, T, E, S, and XY1236 can be booked in fare class P, T, E, S". It then looks up in a different set of tables what a ticket between such-and-such cities on such-and-such fare class costs.

Usually, the customer-facing front-end will translate away this complexity and, say, not show the more expensive options there would be no reason to buy. The one you're looking at apparently doesn't (fully) do this -- which might be because it is cheaply or quickly made, or out of a principled ambition to present as much information as possible to the customer, whether practically useful or not.

(Travel agencies need to know all of the available fare classes, because connecting flights are priced by fare components that may include several flights but has to be the same fare class throughout. So if you want to fly on XY1234 from AAA to BBB and then connect to XY543 from BBB to CCC, and it turns out that the lowest fare class available on XY543 is P, then you need to find a P fare from AAA to CCC, and it won't help you that XY1234 still has Q seats bookable. This complication is usually not shown to consumers either).

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