Travel Tips

Why You Should Care About Your Airline Booking Class

Asiana Airlines Boarding Pass

Say you buy a cheap airline ticket. You expect that you’re going to get the amount of miles on your frequent flier account that you are actually flying, right? Wrong!

In this day-and-age of big airline alliances, miles are no longer so cut and dry. If you fly a U.S. based carrier, then you’ll generally get the amount of miles you flew, but what if you fly one of your airline’s international-based partners? Chances are that if you got your ticket on the cheap, then you’ll get either a fraction of the miles you actually flew or even none at all! Not only that, but if you go cheap, you may get diddly squat from an airline if you have to sit in an airport for 12 hours on a layover!

Let’s take Star Alliance, comprising of bigwigs like United, Continental, Singapore, Lufthansa, Air Canada, THAI and many more. I flew Asiana, one of their member airlines, on my recent trip to Asia, a ticket that would net me 70% of my miles flown. How did I know this in advance? Easy! I checked United’s website and found which Booking Classes received what percentage of miles for Asiana.

All airline alliance partners will publish a chart similar to the one below for what you, as a member of their program, receive on each of their partners. Note that it’s not the same across the board. Singapore could have me getting a completely different percentage of miles on the same Asiana flight. Of course, I have United miles, not Singapore miles!

United Airlines-Asiana Mileage Chart

You’re probably wondering what your booking class is. Well, did you ever notice how air fare prices go up? They stay at a certain price till the seats in a certain booking class are sold and then they move up to the next expensive booking class and so on and so forth until you get to Y, full fare economy, a price you’d probably only pay if you bought a ticket at the very last minute.

How Do I Find Out My Booking Class?

Sometimes identifying your booking class is a very easy process, as many carriers list it right as you’re doing your final review before actually buying the flight. Below is an example from Cathay Pacific’s booking website. Notice that the booking class is on there almost as an afterthought….as if it doesn’t even matter!

Cathay Booking

Other times, you need to poke around a bit to find it, as was the case with my Asiana Airlines flight. I didn’t want to be stuck earning no miles for such a long trip, so I went to the next step, finding my Fare Basis Code, a seemingly random assortment of lettes and numbers that actually mean a great deal in airline-speak. But, the very first letter of this code is your booking class.

Where do you find this code? Well, it’s not easy, but Orbitz is, in my experience, the only website that will show it to you. On the page where they ask you if you want to add Trip Protector, scroll to the bottom and view the rules and restrictions for that fare.

Fare Basis

What About Those Long Layovers?

Many airlines will provide what’s called a Stopover Paid By Carrier (STPC) if you have no other choice in your bookings but to spend an exceptionally long period at a layover, usually in excess of 5 or even 8 hours. I can’t emphasize enough that you must be booked on the first scheduled departure to your onward destination. Usually these are not advertised by the carriers and usually you must call to reserve the service in advance.

So why do I bring this up in a post about your Booking Class? Well, as a cost saving measure, many carriers now restrict these services to certain booking classes! That means that $50 you saved on the flight you might be putting towards a hotel at your layover. Airlines don’t tend to publish these policies, so it’s best to either call them directly to ask about your specific booking class or scan the forums over at

So there ya have it! You should care about your booking class to maximize your redeemable miles and to hopefully score a free hotel room on your long layover!


By Aaron

Hey there! I'm Aaron and this is my travel site, where I document my adventures to all corners of the world. My love for travel started at the ripe old age of four, when a midlife crisis uprooted my family to Ecuador for five years. Since then, I've been to countries on 4 different continents. When I'm not blissfully on the road, I reside in New York City, where I become the ultimate travel junkie and spend my days dreaming up my next great adventure! Read More...

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