How to Read Airfare Rules and Use It to Your Advantage

We think one of the unique features for all the deals we publish is the “valid travel period.” We obtain that information from the fare rules from each airfare that’s published. Every airfare has a set of rules that governs its applicability. Learning to read it opens new opportunities to take advantage of everything the fare has to offer — things like valid travel periods, blackout dates, and stopovers. Understanding these conditions means you are more empowered to take advantage of it.

An easy source for fare rules is Matrix by ITA Software. When you view details of a fare, you will see this:


Clicking on the “rules” link opens up the rules for the fare. Let’s break down the key elements of the fare:

Date / Time restrictions:


This fare allows travel Monday through Thursday. If there’s no day/time restrictions, it means there’s availability everyday — though, it could be sold out or blocked.

Seasonal restrictions:

This fare is good for travel from the United States until May 2nd. If the fare has no restrictions, it is usually good until the end of schedule (or 330 days from today).



This fare allows for stopover in Area 1 (in airline terms, that’s North America) for $100 extra in each direction.

Purchase by:


This fare must be purchased by March 31st. Some fares explicitly state when the fare must be purchase by. Other times, you have to read the advance reservation / ticketing restriction section if a purchase period is not explicitly stated.


There are many more sections in the fare rules. But, understanding these basic sections will help you gain a better understanding of airfare restrictions and availability.

How to Take Advantage:

This fare allows for stopovers in the United States at a gateway city. A gateway is where the over-water segment departs — Delta flies to Asia from Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles etc. So, it’s possible for you to stopover in San Francisco for a month for $100 extra before heading to Hong Kong with this fare.

If you didn’t know the fare rules, you might have purchased two fares instead of booking a multi-city trip. Knowing the fare rules can help you save money.


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Comments (21)

  • KR 11 years ago Reply

    How do you book a fare with a stopover? Do you have to call the airline, or is there a way to do it online? Thanks!

    TFD 11 years ago Reply

    @KR: You can price it online, but it will require a lot of manual effort. We do not know of a search engine that will easily price a fare with a stopover. Calling the airline would probably take time too.

  • Hugo 11 years ago Reply

    Can you explain the combinability part and the end-on-end, half open jaw, etc. meaning? Thanks!

    TFD 11 years ago Reply

    @Hugo – here’s our best attempt at it.

    Combinability is when you are traveling on anything other than a roundtrip. Combinability is when two of more fares comes into play to construct an itinerary for a passenger. Examples include a circle trip, open jaws, end to end tickets. Since it’s multiple fares inside one ticket, the restrictive ticketing conditions apply — let say one ticket is refundable and one isn’t.. The entire ticket is now non-refundable

    End to End
    Two tickets:
    Ticket 1: A -> B roundtrip
    Ticket 2: B -> C roundtrip inside of A -> B

    Half Open Jaw That’s the first time we heard of that. So we do not know. Sorry.

    Hugo 11 years ago

    Thanks a lot!

  • Kevin 11 years ago Reply

    Could you explain the Transfer restrictions, Stopover restrictions and the HIP exceptions ? Thank you very much !

    TFD 11 years ago Reply


    Transfer – the number of connections allowed. For mileage runners, this is great as more connections usually is better.
    Stopover – let say you fly from New York to Hong Kong. If it allows a stopover in either US or Asia, then you can go to say Tokyo for a few days before heading to Hong Kong
    HIP exceptions – of higher intermediate point. Here’s an example from Lufthansa:

    For traffic originating in India and destined to Canada/ USA, when stopovers are taken in
    Europe or UK, higher intermediate fares shall not be applicable from points in Europe/ UK
    to Canada/ USA.

  • Torte 10 years ago Reply

    Sometimes I find a suitable airfare on ITA matrix, but as soon as I add another flight through the “multi-stop” function, the price goes through the roof. Is that maybe because certain flights may only be combined with flights from specific other carriers?

    I had a look at the fare rules but don’t quite understand. There is one Lufthansa (LH) that has the following in its fare rules:

    AREA 3 ON

    What exactly does that mean? I only notice that as soon as I add a flight from another carrier to my itinerary, the price raises a lot.

    The Flight Deal 10 years ago Reply

    @Torte – the travel between Europe and Area 3 (Asia) must be on Lufthansa.

    Torte 10 years ago

    That’s how I read it too. But still, once I add a KKC-BKK (domestic Thailand flight) from Thai Airways International, I end up with immensely more expensive fares. The LH base fares are about 8 times as much as before. Also there are no flight restrictions whatsoever anymore, because I have been assignes “PREMIUM ECONOMY UNRESTRICTED FARES” booking class.

    Why is that so? Does KKC-BKK count as travel between Europe and Asia?

    Torte 10 years ago

    Appearantly I have been mixing up the meaning of FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS and COMPATIBILITY. Now I see clearly, thanks again for your answer

  • george 9 years ago Reply

    booking thru priceline the fare rules say “NO HIP restrictions apply” Does that mean that I CAN get mileage credit from United and star alliance partner for the ticket? That’s how I understand it but wanted to be sure. Thank you.

    The Flight Deal 9 years ago Reply

    @george – NO HIP restrictions have nothing to do with mileage earning. For priceline purchases, as long as it isn’t a name your own price deal, you’ll earn miles if the fare class is mileage earning — all united operated flights will earn miles on United. for star alliance partners, depends on the fare class.

  • Nancy Hamilton-Hughes 8 years ago Reply

    Can you do two weeks, instead of one?

  • sophie 8 years ago Reply

    Would good to know what this meant:


    For a ThaiAir ticket from BRUBKK

    The Flight Deal 8 years ago Reply


    1) Flights has to be operated by Thai.
    2) Refund fee 150 Euros

  • Cathysafron 8 years ago Reply

    How do I use the ITA Matrix to find round trip fares for more than 60 days?

  • Michael 7 years ago Reply

    Not pertinent to above,BUT, I need this info:
    Celebrating with wife,36 years marriage!!

  • Gaston Diaz 7 years ago Reply

    I won’t know what days I will able to go. My question is is if I schedule 7 days right now, will I be able to change the travel date? Is there a fee?

    The Flight Deal 7 years ago Reply

    @Gaston – date change will result in a change fee + fare difference. rarely worth it.

  • JohnD. 7 years ago Reply

    Instead of booking a flight from NYC to Perth, could I book a roundtrip from NYC to Singapore and a roundtrip from Singapore to Perth? Other than timing complications for making connections, is this a feasible flight plan?

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