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How To Read Your Plane Ticket Like a Travel Agent


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While’s it’s a good habit to think every plane ticket is nonrefundable, shit happens. Your car blows up, a friend cancels, conference dates change, you met the love of your life in the elevator, a cousin’s guinea pig dies. Now you want to change your ticket: good, the airline is going to charge you. Or you want to stay in New York, where you’re connecting, for a few days.

It depends on what the ticket rules say when you buy it, and though it may seem like the airlines are making up their own set of rules, they’re not. You agree to everything – how much a change costs, how many stopovers you have, whether you even get frequent flyer miles – when you buy the ticket. The goofy part is that it’s often notoriously hidden, sometimes intentionally.

While it looks like a bunch of mumbo jumbo, it’s the fine print that travel agents and airline representatives have to slog through when trying to help you. The problem is that it often gets hidden when you buy a ticket, and that’s if ticket vendors even show you it at all.

It’s always buried as a small link, either as the “fare rules” or “fare conditions” of your ticket. If it’s displayed (how silly is that, right?), it will usually be shown after you make your flight selection or next to the checkbox when you agree to the terms and conditions of service. Travelocity is fairly good about showing the rules of a ticket; consolidators like Vayama won’t even show what fare bucket your ticket is in. And once you find the rules (we’ve got a small sideshow below), it’s even more aggravating CAUSE ITS ALL IN CAPS.

We’ve done a full breakdown below of one fare’s rules between Paris and Hong Kong on Air China, in plain English. And several important things pop up that we didn’t find out about in our search: for instance, if your visa application is denied by the embassy, you have the right to a full refund. Not to mention, children travel with a 25% discount and there’s an extra charge when traveling to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport. Who said the devil wasn’t in the details?

Fare details for VLRTPXE (*the first letter indicates what fare buckets your flight is in, which matters for accruing frequent flier miles.)

RULE APPLICATION AND OTHER CONDITIONS

NOTE – THE FOLLOWING TEXT IS INFORMATIONAL AND NOT VALIDATED FOR AUTOPRICING. ECONOMY EXCURSION CLASS FOR ONE-WAY OR ROUND TRIP FARES APPLICATION AREA THESE FARES APPLY BETWEEN AREA 2 AND AREA 3. CLASS OF SERVICE THESE FARES APPLY FOR ECONOMY CLASS SERVICE. TYPES OF TRANSPORTATION THIS RULE GOVERNS ONE-WAY AND ROUND-TRIP FARES. FARES GOVERNED BY THIS RULE CAN BE USED TO CREATE ONE-WAY/ROUND-TRIP/CIRCLE-TRIP/OPEN-JAW/SINGLE OPEN-JAW/DOUBLE OPEN-JAW JOURNEYS. CAPACITY LIMITATIONS THE CARRIER SHALL LIMIT THE NUMBER OF PASSENGERS CARRIED ON ANY ONE FLIGHT AT FARES GOVERNED BY THIS RULE AND SUCH FARES WILL NOT NECESSARILY BE AVAILABLE ON ALL FLIGHTS. THE NUMBER OF SEATS, WHICH THE CARRIER SHALL MAKE AVAILABLE ON A GIVEN FLIGHT, WILL BE DETERMINED BY THE CARRIER$S BEST JUDGEMENT.

ELIGIBILITY

NO ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS APPLY.

DAY/TIME (*you can go anytime you want)

NO DAY/TIME TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS APPLY.

SEASONALITY (*you must depart between Jan. 1 and Jun. 25 OR from Nov. 1 to Dec. 10)

ORIGINATING FRANCE – PERMITTED 01JAN THROUGH 25JUN OR 01NOV THROUGH 10DEC ON THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL SECTOR. SEASON IS BASED ON DATE OF ORIGIN.

 

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MINIMUM STAY (*you can stay for as little as you want)

NO MINIMUM STAY REQUIREMENTS APPLY.

MAXIMUM STAY (*you must travel onwards no later than 12 months from the day you left)

TRAVEL FROM LAST STOPOVER MUST COMMENCE NO LATER THAN 12 MONTHS AFTER DEPARTURE FROM FARE ORIGIN.

STOPOVERS (*you get three stopovers! the first two are free, and the last one will cost you an extra €100. you can have one in europe or china, in either direction. the last one, the one that costs you, can only be in china)

3 STOPOVERS PERMITTED IN EACH DIRECTION LIMITED TO 2 FREE AND 1 AT EUR 100.00. 1 FREE IN EUROPE IN EACH DIRECTION 1 FREE IN CHINA IN EACH DIRECTION 1 IN CHINA IN EACH DIRECTION AT EUR 100.00. NOTE – TEXT BELOW NOT VALIDATED FOR AUTOPRICING. EACH STOPOVER TAKEN UTILIZES A PERMITTED TRANSFER. STOPOVERS ALLOWED ONLY AT POINTS AS PER ATTACHED ROUTING.
TRANSFERS

3 TRANSFERS PERMITTED IN EACH DIRECTION. 1 PERMITTED IN EUROPE IN EACH DIRECTION 2 PERMITTED IN CHINA IN EACH DIRECTION. FARE BREAK SURFACE SECTORS NOT PERMITTED AND EMBEDDED SURFACE SECTORS PERMITTED ON THE FARE COMPONENT.

COMBINATIONS

FARES MAY BE COMBINED ON A HALF ROUND TRIP BASIS WITH ANY FARE FOR ANY CARRIER IN ANY RULE AND TARIFF TO FORM ROUND TRIPS/CIRCLE TRIPS. END-ON-END PERMITTED. VALIDATE ALL FARE COMPONENTS. SIDE TRIPS PERMITTED WITH NO RESTRICTIONS. TRAVEL MUST BE VIA POINT OF COMBINATION. OPEN JAWS FARES MAY BE COMBINED ON A HALF ROUND TRIP BASIS WITH ANY FARE FOR ANY CARRIER IN ANY RULE AND TARIFF. -TO FORM SINGLE OR DOUBLE OPEN JAWS A MAXIMUM OF TWO INTERNATIONAL FARE COMPONENTS PERMITTED. MILEAGE OF THE INTERNATIONAL OPEN SEGMENT MUST BE EQUAL/LESS THAN MILEAGE OF THE LONGEST FLOWN FARE COMPONENT. THERE IS NO MILEAGE RESTRICTION ON AN OPEN SEGMENT WITHIN ONE COUNTRY.

BLACKOUT DATES

NO BLACKOUT DATES APPLY.

SURCHARGES (*there’s an extra charge of HKD 33 from Hong Kong to Paris.. fun!)

FROM HKG TO CDG, SECTOR SURCHARGE OF HKD 33 APPLIES.

ACCOMPANIED TRAVEL

ACCOMPANIED TRAVEL NOT REQUIRED.

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

VALID FOR TRAVEL COMMENCING DEPARTURE OF FIRST INTERNATIONAL SECTOR ON/AFTER 01JAN12.

SALES RESTRICTIONS (*you need to buy the ticket after Sept. 28, 2011)

TICKETS MUST BE ISSUED ON/AFTER 28SEP11.

PENALTIES (*and here’s the meaty stuff that will affect you the most. it seems like penalties are quoted in euro and yuan, so we suggest paying in euro as its cheaper. but the important points are  [1] this ticket is refundable, but only before you fly. it will cost you ¥1000/€100. [2] if it’s because someone died, there is no charge but you have to prove it. [3] if you bought the ticket in china and leaves from china, you can get a full refund if your visa application is denied but you also have to prove it. [4] after you start your trip, you may be eligible for a refund on unused taxes and fees. [5] any changes will cost ¥800/€80. [6] if you change your flight before you leave, the ticket will be repriced to the current market price. if it’s higher, you will also be asked to pay the difference. if it’s lower, you won’t get a refund of any kind. [7] if you change your flight after you leave, they won’t reprice the ticket. you’ll still be charged the fee though.)

CANCELLATIONS BEFORE DEPARTURE CHARGE CNY 1000.0/EUR 100.00 FOR CANCEL/REFUND. AFTER DEPARTURE TICKET IS NON-REFUNDABLE IN CASE OF CANCEL/REFUND. NOTE – TEXT BELOW NOT VALIDATED FOR AUTOPRICING. CHILD DISCOUNT APPLY. INFANT FREE OF CHARGE ——————– WAIVED FOR DEATH OF PASSENGER OR FAMILY MEMBER. DEATH CERTIFICATE REQUIRED. ——————- CANCELLATIONS RULES APPLY BY FARE COMPONENT WHEN COMBINING WITH DIFFERENT CANCELLATION FEES APPLY THE HIGHEST ONE. ——————– WHEN COMBINING A REFUNDABLE TICKET WITH A NON REFUNDABLE TICKET PROVISIONS WILL APPLY AS FOLLOWS – THE AMOUNT PAID ON THE REFUNDABLE FARE COMPONENT WILL BE REFUNDED UPON PAYMENT OF THE PENALTY AMOUNT IF APPLICABLE – THE AMOUNT PAID ON THE NON REFUNDABLE FARE COMPONENT WILL NOT BE REFUNDED ——————- BEFORE DEPARTURE OF JOURNEY- FULL REFUND PERMITTED FOR TICKETS ISSUED AND ORIGINATING IN CHINA IN CASE OF REJECTION OF VISA. EMBASSY STATEMENT REQUIRED. ——————– REFUND MUST BE MADE WITHIN 12 MONTHS FROM TICKETING DATE. ——————- AFTER DEPARTURE OF JOURNEY- REFUND OF UNUSED FEES AND TAXES PERMITTED UNLESS APPLICABLE FARE PLUS TAXES FOR ACTUAL TRAVEL IS HIGHER THAN WHOLE ORIGINAL TICKET. IN THIS CASE NO TA X OR FEE REFUND PERMITTED. —————— REFUND MUST BE MADE WITHIN 12 MONTHS FROM TRAVEL COMMENCING DATE. ———————————————– CHANGES ANY TIME CHARGE CNY 800.0/EUR 80.00 FOR REISSUE/ REVALIDATION. NOTE – TEXT BELOW NOT VALIDATED FOR AUTOPRICING. CHILD DISCOUNT APPLY INFANT FREE OF CHARGE ——————– BEFORE DEPARTURE OF JOURNEY REPRICE USING CURRENT FARES IN EFFECT AT THE DATE OF TICKET REISSUANCE ——————– AFTER DEPARTURE OF JOURNEY REPRICE USING HISTORICAL FARES IN EFFECT AT ORIGIN AL TICKET DATE. ——————– THE NEW TICKET BASE FARE AMOUNT MUST BE EQUAL TO OR HIGHER THAN THE PREVIOUS TICKET BASE FARE AMOUNT ——————– CHARGE DIFFERENCE IN FARE PLUS CHANGE FEE IF ANY. ——————– IF THE NEW BASE FARE IS LOWER THAN THE PREVIOUS BA SE FARE IGNORE ANY RESIDUAL AMOUNT AND NO REFUND PERMITTED.CHARGE CHANGE FEE IF ANY. ——————– APPLY THE HIGHEST CHANGE FEE OF ALL CHANGED FARE COMPONENTS WITHIN THE JOURNEY. ——————– CHANGE FEE IS SUBJECT TO EACH CHANGE TRANSACTION ———————– WAIVED FOR CHANGES ON CHINA DOMESTIC SECTORS ONLY AND CHARGE FARE DIFFERENCE IF ANY. ——————– WAIVED FOR DEATH OF PASSENGER OR FAMILY MEMBER DEATH CERTIFICATE REQUIRED. ——————– CHANGES MUST BE WITHIN TICKET VALIDITY. ——————–END——————–
HIP/MILEAGE EXCEPTIONS

NOTE – HIGHER INTERMEDIATE RULE APPLIES. MILEAGE SURCHARGE MAY BE IGNORED IF ROUTING DOES NOT EXCEED 25M .

TICKET ENDORSEMENTS

THE ORIGINAL AND THE REISSUED TICKET MUST BE ANNOTATED – NON-END/PENALTY APPLS – IN THE ENDORSEMENT BOX.

CHILDREN DISCOUNTS (*accompanied kids, from the ages of 2 to 11, get 25% off. unaccompanied kids from ages 5 to 11 get charged full price. babies younger than 2 who won’t take up a seat get 90% off, those that will take up a seat 25% off. i hope those babes have their parents with them!)

CNN/ACCOMPANIED CHILD PSGR 2-11 – CHARGE 75 PERCENT OF THE FARE. TICKET DESIGNATOR – CH. MUST BE ACCOMPANIED ON ALL FLIGHTS IN THE SAME COMPARTMENT BY ADULT PSGR 12 OR OLDER. NOTE – TEXT BELOW NOT VALIDATED FOR AUTOPRICING. MUST BE ACCOMPANIED ON ALL FLIGHTS IN SAME COMPAR TMENT BY ADULT 18 OR OLDERER OR – UNN/UNACCOMPANIED CHILD PSGR 5-11 – CHARGE 100 PERCENT OF THE FARE. NOTE – TEXT BELOW NOT VALIDATED FOR AUTOPRICING. IN ADDITION TO UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN FOR EXTRA HANDLING SERVICES PLEASE CONTACT TO AIR CHINA OFFICE . OR – 1ST INF/INFANT WITHOUT A SEAT PSGR UNDER 2 – CHARGE 10 PERCENT OF THE FARE. TICKET DESIGNATOR – IN. MUST BE ACCOMPANIED ON ALL FLIGHTS IN THE SAME COMPARTMENT BY ADULT PSGR 12 OR OLDER. NOTE – TEXT BELOW NOT VALIDATED FOR AUTOPRICING. MUST BE ACCOMPANIED ON ALL FLIGHTS IN SAME COMPARTMENT BY ADULT 18 OR OLDER OR – INS/INFANT WITH A SEAT PSGR UNDER 2 – CHARGE 75 PERCENT OF THE FARE. TICKET DESIGNATOR – CH. MUST BE ACCOMPANIED ON ALL FLIGHTS IN THE SAME COMPARTMENT BY ADULT PSGR 12 OR OLDER. NOTE – TEXT BELOW NOT VALIDATED FOR AUTOPRICING. MUST BE ACCOMPANIED ON ALL FLIGHTS IN SAME COMPARTMENT BY ADULT 18 OR OLDER

 

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