News Travel Glossary – airline jargon explained

All articles

Travel Glossary – airline jargon explained

Skyscanner has put together a list of travel-related words, phrases and acronyms to help you plan your journey.

There’s a fair amount of jargon in the airline industry and often it can leave us all a bit confused. Skyscanner has put together a list of travel-related words, phrases and acronyms to help you plan your journey.


ABTA – the Association of British Travel Agents.

APEX – Advance Purchase Excursion (fare). These are usually the cheapest tickets the passenger can get though they are restricted in number.

Airport code – the three digit code which is unique to a specific airport. eg. LHR for Heathrow or LGW for Gatwick.


BAABritish Airports Authority. Now known as Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited.

Back-to-back ticketing – when the passenger combines two return trips with opposite start and destination points but uses only a single segment from each to achieve a lower overall fare.

Baggage allowance – the weight of the luggage the airline allows the traveller to check-in. Economy ticket holders are usually allowed 20kg whilst business and first class passengers able to take between 30-40kg depending on the airline. Hand luggage is fairly standard between the airlines: one piece per passenger and up to 8kg in weight though the dimensions of baggage that is allowed can vary between carriers.

Base fare/rate – the basic price of ticket before taxes and other surcharges are added (these are usually a substantial amount particularly on longer flights).

Blackout periods – specific days or periods of time when special rates are not available due to high demand for flights.

Boarding pass – a card given to the passenger after check-in which allocates a seat number or indicates a boarding pattern. The stub of the card should be retained after going through the boarding gate to show to the flight crew once reaching the aircraft.

Budget / Low-cost airlines – these are short-haul flights at bargain prices but with occasional drawbacks. Usually the flights are from secondary airports which could be miles from your ultimate destination. Food and drink is often not included in the price. Fares are usually non-flexible and can incur a hefty charge for changing travel plans. On the plus side, low-cost carriers continue to add to their already impressive list of destinations which can offer real savings for travellers.

Bumped – this means that the number of seats on the flight has been oversold. Sometimes you might be lucky and get “bumped” up to business or first class but more often that not, you will simply be put on the next available flight. Try to check-in early to avoid this situation


Cancellation charges – penalties that you will incur if you cancel your flights. Most fares have this clause in them so travel insurance is advisable if your plans are likely to change.

Capacity-controlled fares – a certain number of seats on a flight to which a cheaper price has been allocated. This percentage changes depending on how quickly the seats are sold.

Carrier – the organisation responsible for transporting passengers or goods – in terms of flights, this will be the airline.

Carry-on – hand-baggage or luggage that has not been checked-in. See restrictions under Baggage allowance.

Charter – an aircraft which is used by a specific group be it customers of a particular holiday company or an individual party.

Check-in – the time before departure when your luggage goes onto the airline and boarding cards are issued. For long-haul this is 2 hours whilst short-haul is approximately 1 hour. Be aware that in these times of occasional heightened airport security, the check-in time can vary. To get up-to-date information it is best to confirm timings with the airline.

City pair – the chosen cities for departure and arrival.

Commission – the percentage of a ticket price which airlines pay their agents.

Companion fare – usually part of a promotion where another ticket may be purchased at a lower rate than the original fare. Normally this is dependent on the two passengers travelling together.

Contract of carriage – this is the legal contract that the passenger enters into with the airline with the terms outlined when the traveller receives the ticket.

Confirmation – oral or written communication which informs the carrier that you will definitely be on a flight or flights.

Construction tickets – term given to two single tickets bought to make up a return flight. See SITI, SOTO and Split ticketing.

Connecting flights – a journey where the passenger must change planes to reach their final destination.

Connecting point the airport where the traveller changes planes.

Consolidators airlines often sell blocks of seats to a third party who then sell these to passengers at discounted prices. The airlines are reluctant to publicly discount tickets and so mask this process through consolidators. The tickets usually have a number of restrictions on them so check the conditions of your travel arrangements carefully before booking them.

Corporate rate – this is the discounted rate that organisations and companies can negotiate with the airlines. Often the company’s country of origin will determine which airline it is – usually one of the national carriers.

Coupon – this is part of the ticket that the passenger hands over at check-in and also contains the contract of carriage.


Direct flights – a flight where the passenger does not need to change planes but the aircraft may stop en-route.

Discounted tickets – by shopping around you will often be able to find agents selling cheaper tickets than advertised by the airlines but usually you will subject to various restrictions. Airlines also have promotions or special offers so it pays to keep an eye on who is offering what.


ETA – Estimated Time of Arrival

EST – Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5 hrs)

Excess baggage – checked-in luggage which exceeds the weight of the Baggage allowance. If you are only just over then you might be lucky but be warned that payments on excess weight can be very expensive.


Hidden city faring – this is when a passenger organises their flights to achieve a final destination that is different from their official itinerary in order to get a lower fare. For example if there were discounted tickets between London and Hong Kong with a stop in Dubai (which is actually where you wanted to go) then you would be guilty of the practising hidden city faring if you failed to return to the plane in Dubai to complete the final segment of the journey. Airlines consider this practice illegal.


Greenwich** Mean Time (GMT) – **the international time standard (also known as UTC – Coordinated Universal Time).

Hub – a major airport where an airline has many flights leaving to smaller destinations.


IATA – International Air Transport Association

Illegal connection – flights that are booked where the time between landing and taking off on the next flight does not adhere to the legal minimum requirements.

Indirect flights – this means the passenger will have to leave the plane at some stage during the journey – either so that it can refuel or possibly so that the traveller can change planes in order to complete the trip.

Interline / Interlining – using multiple airlines to reach the final destination. There may be a formal relationship between the carriers to facilitate baggage transfer and ticketing or it could simply be two or more unconnected companies where the traveller is responsible for luggage and connection timings (see Multi-hop).


Joint fare – an arrangement between carriers to charge special rates when a passenger uses their respective airlines. The fares are negotiated by the airlines involved and the price is nearer to what the traveller would pay were they using just one company.


Long haul flight – a flight of considerable distance and time – often with the passengers suffering some significant jet-lag along the way.

Lowest Fare Routing (LFR) – the cheapest legal flight to the travellers chosen destination.


Minimum connecting time – the smallest amount of time that is allowed to change planes at an airport. If these conditions are breached it is known as an Illegal connection.

Multi-hop or Multi-leg – a journey where the passenger does not just fly between two airports to reach their final destination but where they stop en-route any number of times and perhaps spend time in each of the destinations (see Stopover). The flights do not need to be with the same airline but it is advisable to plan the journey carefully so as to avoid issues with ticket restrictions and onward connections.


Net fare or Net rate – the price of a ticket minus any third party commission or tax.

Non-endorsable – a ticket which cannot be used to fly with another airline.

Non-stop flight – a flight that goes directly from A to B without landing en-route.

Non-transferable – a ticket which is specifically for just one passenger and cannot be used by anyone else.

No-shows – the term relating to passengers or either arrive late or do not arrive at all to travel on their booked flight.


Offline connection – a journey where the passenger travels on multiple planes using multiple airlines

Open-jaw – a ticket that allows the traveller to depart from a different airport to the one in which they landed. For example you could fly from London to Sydney but return to London from Perth. See Surface Sectors.


Package – flights, hotels and services which are bundled together and sold at a specific price.

Passenger coupon – the final portion of a ticket which acts as a receipt for the passenger’s own records.

**PDT –Pacific Daylight Time (GMT -8hrs)

Penalty fare – the amount the passenger has to pay in order to make a change to the travel arrangements or cancel the ticket once it has been issued


Restricted to airport check-in – seating allocation and boarding passes which can only be assigned to the passenger at the airport.


Segment – an identifiable leg or part of a journey. Usually defined by departure and arrival destinations.

Short-haul flight – one that is brief in terms of distance travelled and time in the air. eg. UK to European destinations. This is the chosen market of most of the low-cost carriers – at least for the moment.

Situated In, Ticketed In (SITI) where you buy the ticket from the country you are leaving.

Situated Out, Ticketed Out (SOTO) where the ticket is bought from your destination country.

Split ticketing – when you travel using two single tickets instead of a return in order to obtain a lower fare

Standby – this is if a passenger holds a ticket that does not automatically guarantee a reserved seat means instead that they are waiting for availability.

Stopover – an overnight stay (or possibly longer) at a location en-route to your final destination. This is usually done to break up a very long journey eg. London to Sydney with a stopover in Hong Kong.

Surface sector – the distance between departure airports using an open-jaw ticket. The customer is responsible for organising the travel between the two points of departure.


Ticket issuance – purchasing tickets that have previously been reserved.


Window of convenience – the traveller’s ideal departure or arrival time – plus or minus two hours.

Skyscanner is the world’s travel search engine, helping your money go further on flights, hotels and car hire.