What the H*ll is this Code Sharing? (Travel Tip #9)

I was at a party recently and a guy I was talking to, was reflecting on his recent holiday. He had been shocked to find despite being booked on what he thought was a Qantas flight, it was in fact operated by British Airways. “What the hell is this Code Sharing?” was his comment.

This experience can be a bonus. For example, being booked on an American Airlines flight but the carrier is Qantas. The service will be better and the food better! I have also found it can save you money. When I booked a seat on a Lufthansa flight to experience their A380, I found that there was a major fare difference between Lufthansa and United for the same flights. I booked my flights at United.com, was issued a United Airlines ticket with a United Airlines flight number. At the airport I checked in at Lufthansa and was issued a Lufthansa boarding pass for the Lufthansa 380 flight. When the flight was displayed on the monitors at the airport, both the United and Lufthansa flight numbers were shown.

On most occasions, the carrier or agent selling you the ticket will advise you that the flight is “operated by another carrier”. For most flights, the practice seems to be to assign a 4 numbers to the flight number.

The benefit for the airline selling the tickets is that it increases then number of destinations it can easily sell to. For the airline supplying the service, it can sell more of its seats on a flight (and reduce competition on that sector).

The benefit for the customer? I think there are more benefits for the airline than the customer/ [perhaps passengers benefit from Easier ticketing? Generally, passengers can earn frequent flyer points on that route just as if it was the original airline. Usually lounge access and other benefits automatically flow on but not always. I have found some anomalies in my experience. For example American Airlines staff often seem to not realise they are operating a code share flight. Lounge access for Virgin Australia passengers and Etihad passengers on the same Etihad flight can be different. These are usually kinks which will be worked out – especially if passengers complain!

 A few tips:

  1. Check which carrier is actually operating the sector when you book flights
  2. Identify the actual flight number for the airline operating your service. This will help you find flights more quickly at the airport or online
  3. Double check your Frequent Flyer program to ensure you will get points on a Codeshare service
  4. If you have any questions regarding seating, contact the airline actually operating the flight. Their own agents appear to have more flexibility over seating requests than the issuing airline
  5. You will usually check in with the carrier who is actually operating the flight
  6. Keep the phone numbers of the carrier that issued your ticket and the carrier actually operating our flight so you are ready if something goes wrong
  7. Keep Boarding passes and ticket numbers (this is listed somewhere in your booking) until the points are credited to your account. Anecdotally, the points for codeshare flights seem to take longer than flights operated by your airline

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  1. This gave me my worst flight ever, on a trip to Thailand! I booked with Qantas and was never advised that it was switched to a British Airways flight, although I probably wouldn’t have worried anyway, as a friend who always flew British gave them a good rap. However, on board, the seats were as cramped (at least) as a domestic flight. The staff were the slowest I have ever seen to get the meal out to us, and even slower to collect trays afterwards, which resulted in us sitting there with trays down for way over an hour, making it impossible to get out to go to the toilet unless you were on an aisle seat (my window-seat neighbour, an athletic girl who had imbibed a few alcohols, actually stood on her seat and vaulted over us to get out!)The food was the worst I have ever had (and I don’t normally complain about airline food as I don’t expect a lot)and, a couple of hours later, I felt quite ill. I have to say the staff were wonderfully kind, took me to their own seats by the galley (and toilets)gave me water, then a cup of tea, and let me stay there until it was time to land. Nevertheless, it was enough to make me contact Qantas in Bangkok to ensure that I went home Qantas, not British, and I actually had to change a flight and take longer to get there to do so, but I didn’t care! I like to know what I’m getting, and try to control it where possible!

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