It may seem like a simple question but the answer is far from simple. Not only are there up to four different cabins on a plane to choose from, but there are sometimes just as many fare typeswithin Economy Class alone. For the most part, deciding on what fare to buy depends on you and your needs as a traveller, and determining those first goes a long way in deciding what type of ticket to purchase.
If you’re loaded and money’s no object, the answer is simple: always go with the most comfortable seat on the plane. I mean, why not? If money is at all a concern, however, there are things to consider. For the purpose of this exercise, let’s pretend that your spending isn’t infinite.
Often, people look at airfares backwards. The question shouldn’t be, what is the lowest fare I can find? Instead, ask yourself, what type of a traveller am I? Or, what do I value when travelling?
If we break down the different fare types based on personalities, a clearer picture emerges, almost dictating the fare one should be buying.
Whether we then choose to act on this data-driven result is then solely up to us. You can try to forfeit some of your travel wants to use a better fare, or you can just accept your travel style, buy the ticket most suitable, and be done with it.
The tricky part is that each different airline prices their tickets differently. Some allow you to buy cargo space for a checked bag on their lowest fare, others do not. Some offer changes for a fee, others do not. Today, for simplicity, let’s compare fares using our national airline, Air Canada.
With the above in mind, let’s dig a little deeper and find out which of the following travel personalities you most identify with. Following each assessment is a recommended fare type.
Just glad to get a seat, man. I travel light.
As mentioned in the onset, there can be several different fare levels, even within Economy Class. A good rule of thumb to always keep in mind is that the cheaper the ticket, the more restrictive it is. Economy Class fares encompass the absolute cheapest ticket on a flight (Tango) but can cost as much as $1500CAD for a one-way flight between Toronto and Vancouver, too (Latitude).
For those on a tight budget and not much regard for in-seat comfort, Economy Class should suffice. If you travel light, meaning that you don’t need to check a bag and can fit everything into your carry-on luggage, you should be fine with the absolute lowest fare on the flight - unless you might need to change the dates of your ticket later. If flexibility is something you need, you should consider a higher fare type, as most rock-bottom fares are unchangeable (or at a higher cost), as well as non-refundable.
Air Canada Fare Type: Economy Tango or Economy Flex
Indecisive, prone to postponing or cancelling trips.
You start off with the best intentions but things often go sideways. Situations arise, plans change and you’re prone to impulsive buys that are often crushed with the realities of life and its challenges. Too often you’ve bought the cheapest fare only to have to change it numerous times, sometimes even cancelling trips you’ve bought too early. Sound familiar?
If elements of the above personality ring true to you, it may be time to be straight with yourself and accept the fact that you’ve been buying the wrong ticket all along. Once you figure in the change fees, on top of the difference in fare that you’ve repeatedly paid on the cheapest fare, you are well over the ticket cost of the next best fare, the one with the lower change fees.
Air Canada Fare Type: Economy Flex or Economy Latitude
Thank goodness for flying time! Getting work done on a flight saves me every time.
You travel frequently for business and often leave a lot of the work needing done for the flight. Even when you’re all caught up, looking things over and fine-tuning your strategy are always best left for just before the meeting. If only your seat had space and all the connectivity you needed to recharge your phone and power your laptop.
Most seats in Economy Class on most airlines lack this connectivity and offer no room for your sprawl of notes and devices. If you value personal space, need a USB port as well as a power source, you’ll have to climb up a cabin. Lucky for you, the next best cabin also offers complimentary premium meals and free top-shelf drinks, a wider, more comfortable seat, and a more flexible ticket. Now, if you could only bill the company you’re visiting for the trip.
Air Canada Fare Type: Premium Economy or Business Class
My days of flying Coach are over. Because I’m worth it.
It’s time to be good to yourself. You’ve been there and you’ve done the whole Economy Class thing to be responsible and to help save for the future. You’ve sacrificed comfort (and your palate) by flying at the back of the bus for as long as you can remember – until now. The fruits of your labour are finally ripe enough for a seat up front and you’ve earned your chance to taste it.
Walking through those dark, heavy curtains, from humble Economy to heaven, is something everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime. You are no longer just a seat number. You are called by your name up here. And when the onboard Sommelier recommends their favourite Gewurztraminer to go with your plate of Camembert, it’ll all make sense. Bravo, you’ve made it. Enjoy!
Air Canada Fare Type: Business Class or First Class
As you can see, fares really are based on the needs of the traveller and aren't a one-size-fits-all deal. The options can be overwhelming though, and wading through the multitude of fares available on any given flight might just be best left to an expert. Next time you speak to your travel consultant, work backwards. Tell them about the type of traveller you are and what you need from your ticket. Starting with the fare you're after can actually end up costing more in the long run.