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Ultimate Glossary of Air Travel Terms

There was a time when hopping on a plane was pretty simple. It was so simple that airlines saw in increase in travel, so much so that airports became congested, flight schedules became complicated, and a whole new language developed, just to allow for effective communications between the flying public, the agents who did the booking, and the people flying the planes. Now that the flying public can often book their own flights using a personal computer, the situation seems to have gotten even more complicated rather than simpler. To accommodate the tremendous interest in air travel, governments around the world have implemented new laws governing such travel and airlines seem to be in a constant state of evolution of their services, their aircraft, and their lingo. This glossary aids in the understanding of such a complicated system but it may be just enough to make air travel seem a little less intimidating.

Actual Flying Time - The time it takes to go from Point A to Point B while actually in the air; between take-off and landing. Actual flying time does not include the time it takes for security checks, boarding, disembarking, and baggage claim or the time spent on the ground during layovers.

Add-on - Special services, arrangements, or accommodations made in addition to the basic service provided by an airline, hotel, or other operator in the travel industry.

Adjoining Rooms - Hotel rooms that are side by side and have interior doors that open into one room or the other without the need to access the public areas of the hotel, such as the hallway.

Advance Purchase Requirement - The reduced ticket price often available when an airline ticket is purchased before arriving at the airport.

ARC - The Airline Reporting Corporation is responsible for licensing policies governing travel agents and it regulates the relationship between airlines and travel agencies.

Airport Access Fee - The fee the airline carrier pays to the airport each time one of its airplanes lands at the airport.

Airline Designator - The alpha code used to identify an airline, such as BA for British Airways or CO for Continental Airlines.

Availability - The number of seats on a flight for which no previous reservations have been made; until all seats are booked, some remain available.

Base Fare - The minimum amount it costs to fly from Point A to Point B before fees, taxes, surcharges, and other costs are added to the price of the ticket.

Blackout Dates - A period of time during which an airline will not allow certain types of fares or tickets to be sold or honored, such as during peak or holiday travel times.

Blocked Space - A predefined number of seats on a plane, rooms in a hotel, and the like that are held back from regular sales but available at reduced rates. 

Boarding Pass - The document every traveler receives when paying for an airline ticket; it often designates which seat the passenger is allowed to occupy in flight.

Bucket Shop - An unlicensed operator in currency or stock markets speculating on the funds of customers unaware of the situation.

Bulk Contract - A contract between an airline and a travel agent that extends reduced rates to the passengers booked by the travel agent.

Bulk Fare - Reduced fares that are extended to groups who travel together.

Business Class - The mid-range class of seats on a plane, between first class and coach.

Cancellation Penalty - A fee the passenger must pay to the airline if the passenger cancels flight plans after reserving a seat.

Carry-On - The bag or other form of luggage that a passenger is allowed to bring into the passenger compartment of the plane; this bag must be small enough to fit safely and securely into the overhead compartments along the sides of the plane. Most passengers who bring carry-on luggage also bring a purse or briefcase they can stow under their seats during the flight.

Commission - The percentage of the ticket price the airline pays to the booking agent for making flight reservations for airline passengers.

Consolidator - A seller of airline tickets in bulk; consolidators frequently offer reduced rates but they’re likely to come with heavy restrictions.

Corporate Agency - The in-house personnel of a business that schedules travel arrangements for the company’s employees in lieu of using an outside travel agency.

Domestic Fare - The cost of flying between two points that are in the same country.

Electronic Ticket - Airline tickets passengers can print from personal computers or at stations in an airport without the need to speak or interact directly with airline personnel.

ETA - Estimated Time of Arrival; the time the plane is scheduled to land at its destination.

Excess Baggage - Airlines understand most people need to bring clothing, personal effects, and sometimes business-related items along on a flight; these items are calculated as part of the space allocated for each passenger to determine capacity for a given plane or flight. Anything a passenger wants to take on the plane that is larger, heavier, or more numerous than the standard baggage allowance is excess baggage and there is usually an added expense for transporting it.

Exclusive Fare - A highly attractive ticket price that is reserved for special occasions, such as flights booked by a preferred travel agency, corporate client, or other unique situation.

Fare Code - The code by which the cost of airline tickets for each individual flight is determined.

Final Approach - The very last moments of flight before landing, when the plane is descending rapidly in a straight line with the runway.

First Class - The front passenger section of the airplane immediately behind the cockpit; seats in this area are the most expensive but the seats are roomier and more comfortable and amenities and services offered by the flight attendants are more abundant and lavish.

Fuselage - The main body of an airplane.

Global Distribution System - An automated reservation system used by travel agents to synchronize reservations for air travel, car rental, and lodging.

Hub - An airport where an airline enjoys a major presence, such as Delta Airlines does in Atlanta, Georgia.

IATAN - International Airlines Travel Agent Network, the industry trade association that represents travel agents around the world; the IATAN establishes internationally recognized codes of operation for the air travel industry as well as tourist bureaus, hotels, and car rental agencies.

Inbound - A flight that is due to land at an airport; opposite of outbound, or a flight due to leave the airport.

Jet-lag - A feeling of lethargy passengers often feel at the end of a flight that travels across several time zones. This generalized feeling of sleepiness or lack of energy occurs because the body’s natural day/night rhythms are no longer in synchrony with the time of day at the destination.

In-transit - The period of time when passengers are actually on a plane. In-transit time is longer than actual flight time because it includes time for boarding, taxiing down runways, layovers that require passengers to stay on board, and disembarking at the flight’s destination.

Interline Connection - The type of plane change that requires a passenger to take a connecting flight by the same airline to the destination point; opposite of offline connection.

Land Arrangements - The plans made for a passenger once the plane is landed and the traveler is no longer a part of the airline system; land arrangements can include transportation, sleeping, sightseeing, and dining accommodations.

Layover - The lag, or down, time a passenger experiences when the plane lands at an airport before reaching his or her final destination. For example, a passenger who boards at Point A may layover at Point B before disembarking at Point C.

Leg - The departure and arrival flight schedule for a passenger; the passenger leaves on the departure leg and returns on the arrival leg.

LDW - The Loss Damage Waiver covers a car renter against theft and vandalism as well as accidental damage.

Leisure Travel - Travel enjoyed just for fun, such as to a vacation destination, as opposed to work-related business travel.

Limited Service Hotel - A hotel that provides a place to sleep but perhaps nothing more, such as meals, airport shuttles, and concierge services.

Lowest Available Fare - The absolute minimum price for which a seat on a particular flight can be purchased. These lowest fares usually require meeting strict criteria, such as advance purchase of tickets, travel to restricted destinations, maximum stays, flights requiring multiple layovers instead of a direct flight, and restricted to certain days of the week or time of day.

Maximum Stay - Applies to round-trip travel only; the airline honors round-trip tickets and prices as long as the return flight is enough days after arrival to satisfy a maximum stay policy.

Minimum Connect Time - The least amount of time possible for a passenger to leave one plane and board another during a layover.

Modified American Plan - Referred to as the MAP, this meal plan provides two meals, usually breakfast and dinner, to travelers.

Net Rate - The rate of pay to a service provider, such as an airline carrier, after all expenses such as taxes and fees have been deducted from the ticket price.

No Show - Someone who booked a flight but did not arrive at the airport in time to board the plane before take-off.

Non-Refundable - A ticket that cannot be returned for cash or credit once its been purchased.

Non-Transferable - A ticket purchased with the understanding that the ticket cannot be used for other destinations or dates once it’s purchased, even if the passenger’s plans are altered at any time before the ticket is used.

Nonstop - A flight that goes from take-off to landing, Point A to Point B, without stopping anywhere else along the route.

Occupancy Rate - The number of passengers versus the number of seats on a plane; if a plane has 100 seats and only 50 passengers, its occupancy rate is 50%. Airlines analyze occupancy rates to determine the popularity of particular flight schedules.

Offline Connection - The type of plane change that requires a passenger to board a plane of an airline different from the airline of the previous leg; opposite is interline connection.

Off-Peak - Flights scheduled during times of the day, month, season, or year when there is less general interest in travel. Off-peak travel, which is usually less expensive than flying during peak hours, varies with different circumstances, such as the winter holidays, summer vacations, weekends, and during business hours.

Open Ticket - The return leg of a round-trip ticket that does not hold the traveler to a particular flight, time, or day but can be used as need be.

Operator - The airline that owns and operates the plane.

Overbooking - The practice of selling more tickets than a plane has seats, betting that not everyone who buys a ticket will show up for the flight.

Passenger Facility Charge - A fee the airline pays to the airport for each passenger who uses the airport to board the airline’s planes.

Passenger Name Record - A list of the names of all the passengers on a given flight.

Personal Effects Coverage - An insurance policy a passenger can purchase to cover his or her personal belongings against loss or damage incurred during flight.

Point-to-Point - A direct flight from Point A to Point B with no detours or stops along the way.

Published Fare - The price for a flight that is published on advertising literature such as brochures, magazine or newspaper ads, the Internet, and elsewhere.

Rack Rate - The standard rate at which lodging accommodations are advertised; lower rates are often available for the asking.

Reconfirm - To verify a reservation once it’s been made.

Record Locator - An identification number assigned to each airline flight reservation.

Red-Eye Flight - A flight scheduled very late at night when passengers are usually tired and sleepy.

Reissue - To generate a revised or replacement ticket when original plans are changed; reissues often cost more than the original ticket.

Round Trip - A flight schedule that takes a passenger from the point of departure to the destination and then back to the point of departure, or from Point A to Point B and back to Point A.

Sabre - The computerized reservation system preferred by travel agents and airlines around the world.

Saturday Night Stay - A condition of travel that usually awards the traveller with reduced airfare. The passenger can travel to his or her destination any day of the week, except Saturday, and receive a reduced rate as long as the return flight is scheduled for Sunday.

Scheduled Carrier - The airline on which a passenger is booked.

Segment - Each unit of a passenger’s flight plan when stops, or layovers, are made along the way to the destination point.

Special Fare - Reduced rates offered under special circumstances and for a limited time.

Shoulder Season - The period of time between peak travel seasons and off seasons.

Suite - Guest quarters in a hotel that include two or more bedrooms; some suites are simply adjoining rooms with a door that can be accessed without going into the public area of the hotel, such as the hallway, but others have living rooms, parlors, and other rooms also.

Supplier - A business entity providing a service or equipment.

Through Passenger - A passenger who remains on a plane during a layover as opposed to someone who gets off one plane to catch another one to reach destination.

Ticket Stock - The blank paper on which airline tickets will be printed.

Travel Agent - A licensed representative of the travel industry who helps travelers make travel decisions and sees to all the details of the traveler’s needs, including transportation, lodging, dining, sightseeing, and any other situations that need to be planned in advance.

Travel Agency - The business entity that employs travel agents.

Unlimited Mileage - An option for rental cars that allows the driver to travel as many miles as desired without incurring additional costs; many car rentals are billed by the number of miles driven.

Unrestricted Fare - An airline ticket that does not involve any restrictions, such as length of stay, time or day of travel, and is usually refundable; unrestricted fares are most often associated with first class and coach travel.

Waiver - Written proof that a traveler has declined a service offered, such as insurance coverage or penalties.

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