What Does It All Mean??? Your Guide to Booking a Plane Ticket
September 19, 2016
So even though I have a glossary that will help you decipher the complex language of points and miles, there are several terms you may be confronted with throughout your travel day in airports and hotels.
My goal here as always is to prepare my readers, the infrequent travelers, to travel like pros. I don't want you getting tripped up over some fancy word or phrase that's really just a bunch of BS designed to get more of your money.
Today I'm going to walk you through the process of booking a plane ticket. Now, I'm not going to do this for each airline, so I'm just going to touch on general terms. If you have questions about specific airlines, tweet me @MileageMayhem or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assuming you're not using trip aggregators like Kayak or discount sites like CheapOair or Expedia, you'll want to go directly to your preferred airline's website. You can do this by either googling your airline (i.e. "Book American Airlines Tickets") or going directly to their URL.
The Home Page
On pretty much every airline's website you'll see the following options:
Log In: This is where you log in with your frequent flyer number or username and password. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. If you do, that means you don't have a frequent flyer number. If you book a flight and don't put in your frequent flyer number, you don't get miles. If you don't get miles for a flight you book, it will make me a very sad panda.
Book A Trip: This is why you came. This is where you will input all your trip details to find your flights. You'll see several options within this section, including:
Round Trip: This is most likely the option you want. A round trip flight is when you take off from the same city that you'll be flying back to. For instance, a round trip flight from Dallas to Miami would be leaving from Dallas, staying in Miami for a couple of days, then coming back to Dallas.
One Way: A one-way trip is for when you don't need to fly back to where you started, or if you're going to fly back on a different airline (you can sometimes get a cheaper total fare doing it this way) or you want to fly to one city, drive somewhere else, and fly back from there.
From/Departure Airport/Origin: This is where you will be leaving from.
To/Arrival Airport/Destination: This is where you will wind up.
Number of Passengers: This is how many people will be on this reservation.
Departure Date: This is the day that you plan on flying from your departure airport to your destination.
Return Date: This is the date you want to come back.
Flight Status: This is where, if you already have a flight booked, you can check your flight details and if it's on time.
My Trips: These are sometimes combined but this is where, after you log in with your frequent flyer number (which you definitely have, right?) you can see all your upcoming trips.
Check-In: This is where you will check in for your flight when the time comes, usually starting 24 hours before your flight.
Show Price In/Redeem Miles: The point of this function is to indicate if you're planning on paying for your ticket or if you want to redeem miles for your ticket so that the system knows what currency to show your fare in.
Main Cabin/Economy: These terms mean coach, or in other words, the crappy part of the plane. This will be the cheapest section of fares.
First Class: This is the awesome section. Unfortunately, it's also the most expensive. Rarely will you want to pay for first class.
Premium Economy: Depending on what kind of trip you're booking this may be an option. Basically, this is a coach seat but with more leg room and possibly some better food and drink.
Business Class: You usually won't see this on domestic flights (within the US) but occasionally it may pop up and I want you to be prepared. Business class is in between coach and first class. It's a very nice option if you want the first class experience but don't need all the first class experience (and price).
Frequent Flyer Number: By now you should know that you need to have one of these. Seriously. Now.
Redress Number: You almost assuredly won't need to worry about this. It's for people who have more or less have the same name as an evil person so it helps to prevent them not get stopped every time.
Known Traveler Number:If you have Global Entry (a fast track program for international travel that comes with TSA Precheck) you can input your KTN here to make sure you get your TSA expedited screening.
Picking Your Seats
Preferred Seat: This type of seat usually has different levels, and are usually free for those with elite status. You can pay extra for these seats, and depending on how you are in your traveling you may want to pay a little extra for a good seat.
Exit Row: Exit row seats have the most leg room so that you have room to pop out the door should there be an emergency. Note that you can't sit in this row unless you're 15 or older, and need to be in good health to sit there. This is the best seat if you need leg room.
Paying For Your Trip
Mileage Multiplier: This is an option you can purchase to get more miles for your flight. Sometimes this can be a decent option, but generally you should steer clear unless you need some more miles.
Trip Insurance: If you're not sure about your dates or you think something may come up, purchasing trip insurance allows you to cancel your flight free of charge (except for what you paid for the insurance). If you're purchasing an expensive trip, you may want to spring for insurance.
Hold: Some airlines allow you to hold your flight without paying for up to 24 hours. Again, if you're not sure about your plans quite yet, or you see a great fare and want to hold it to make sure you get it tomorrow.
As you can see, there are a lot of buzzwords used that can be quite confusing. I hope this helps you navigate through this and make for an easy booking process.
As always, tweet me @MileageMayhem or email me at email@example.com with any questions.