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15+ Terms to Augment Your Airline & Airport Acumen


Here is an inconclusive list of various airline airport terms, words, phrases, and jargon that are often used by pilots, crew members, airport staff, etc.

Hidden City Ticketing – One more tactic, similar to throwaway ticketing, where the traveler buys a roundtrip ticket with a layover, and the layover is the intended city of travel. The rest of the ticket is not used. This is for when A ticket with a layover at the intended destination is cheaper than a booking the flight right to the intended destination. For example, I was looking for tickets recently to Panama City, Panama (PTY). At the same time, I always am on the lookout for tickets to Bogotá, Colombia (BOG), so I can visit my girlfriend. The tickets to BOG were about $577 at the time, while tickets to PTY from JFK were about $640. I found a ticket to BOG for $577 on United, which had a layover in PTY. Only problem is, if I didn’t fly leg 2 and 3 of this flight, they wouldn’t let me fly home from PTY on leg 4. Always be careful (and never check bags!)!

Funnel Flight – Now this is what I consider a shoddy scheme that some airlines pull. A funnel flight is one where a flight changes planes at a certain stop, though usually billing itself as a nonstop flight. The plane may leave an airport (usually a smaller, lower-key destination) flying to another, but stops off at an airport close to the departure(probably more of a major airport) to “feed” or “funnel” the passengers onto another plane. The flight will keep the same flight number on both segments, and still counts as only one leg flown. Fliers who travel often hate this tactic, as they do not get the extra mileage or qualified segments in their frequent flier accounts, though most people believe this should count as a layover.

Hub (Airline) – An airline hub is the central part of the Hub and Spoke Model. An airline’s hub is where that particular airline has a heavier presence, usually in cities that also feature the airline’s headquarters or other administrative offices. If an airline has a large presence in a city that is not home to offices, it is usually referred to as a focus city or a secondary hub. Airlines that have their hub in a particular location usually offer some of the most competitive pricing on flights, either inbound or outbound. JetBlue has its HQ in Queens, New York, and has a hub at JFK. When flying with JetBlue, you will notice that most of their special offers relate somewhat to JFK. Another example is Delta, which has their HQ and primary hub at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Int’l Airport, and likewise offers great rates on destinations to and from ATL.

Single Supplement – An additional charge added to a solo traveler, when prices were originally quoted for dual occupancy. It is usually tacked on to anything that includes a room, such as cruise packages or vacation packages. When looking at prices, check to see if there is a phrase such as “based on double occupancy”. The price for one person for the same package may be considerably higher, to offset the cost of only one person utilizing a room, instead of two.

Airline Alliance – These are agreements of cooperation between groups of airlines. Alliances offer airlines more flexibility and larger networks, while giving travelers such conveniences as the ability to earn frequent flier miles on a partner program of the airline flown. The three largest airline alliances are Star Alliance, oneworld, and SkyTeam. For example, travelers who like to earn US Airways’ Dividend Miles can travel on an Air Canada flight and earn Dividend Miles, because they are both partner airlines in the Star Alliance.

Codeshare – An agreement between two airlines to share the same flight. A ticket may be purchased on one airline, but the plane may be from a different airline. A flight from JFK to San Salvador (SAL) was in the past available to purchase via Delta. The actual flight and crew were from TACA airlines, which had also offered tickets to the flight. A way for one carrier to partner up with another airline to increase the places that they fly to.

Through Passenger – Passengers who are not disembarking at a specific stop. When a trip has a layover, at the layover airport the traveler is a “through passenger”. Other passengers on the same flight may be at their final destination. This is useful to know in airports when disembarking a plane on a layover. There may be two separate paths, for either through passengers, or passengers who have reached their final destination. Going down the wrong path may cause a passenger to leave the secure area, in which case they would need to go through the security checkpoint again.

Airline Designator – Abbreviated codes, most commonly referring to the ones assigned by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). On airline boards and tickets, usually these are coupled with the Flight Number, such as DL1234, where “DL” is the designator for Delta Airlines, and 1234 is the flight number.

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Written by
Christian Eilers
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