Why is Business class "C" instead of "J"

Hi !

Pretty much my title : why is the Business class named “C” while in real life the generic letter is “J” ?

(F First, J Business, W Premium Economy, Y Economy)

C is also used as the full-fare business class for many airlines. This was because Pan-Am named their original class the “Clipper Class” and it kinda stuck. Before all of the codes were regulated by IATA but now its up to the airlines.
Off what I could find online, Delta, JAL, Hawaiian, Air Canada, Singapore, Qatar, Air India, and I’m sure a bunch of others still use some variation of C as a full-fare Business Class, usually alongside J. Emirates does C as “Business Flex” and J as “Business Flex Plus” - which who knows the difference. AA use J for full fare business, and C is still used but 99% of those are award tickets - and many other airlines use C as a discounted J fare, but usually not a rock-bottom C fare. I also found BA used C for short-haul business and J for long-haul at some point in the 80s to distinguish vastly different products.
I also managed to nab these off LH’s usually-locked Experts site, popped up through web results oddly enough and the file was not restricted at all. If you can understand them, it can help a lot with that airline specifically.




Doesn’t about all European airlines use C as their business class? Thus calling J the generic letter for it is a little inaccurate

Thank you for the detailed reply !

What it seems like : the standard is J and it will exist on pretty much all airlines because it’s IATA. C coexists because of previous times and some airlines still use it in parallel. My guess is because of either them having used C in the past or because they are in an alliance and want to standardize to whatever the biggest allies use ? So new airlines will all have J, old airlines will probably have C, and to some degree depending on their story and network they would use the other letter too.

This is a special case for Business because economy or First have only one standard full fare code (Y and F), all other codes are airline specific, sometimes not related to the class but the full fare code can end up being “SPCIAL” to mean a temporary special price instead of the mix of letters to describe the complex price of a full ticket contract (I found examples of 49 to 13499€ for the same flight depending on the dozens of options, from internal employee discount to full one-way first class fare)

Wikipedia also lists J as the common denominator and C is another option. Common travelers do use the term J a lot at least those I know that’s how it came to my mind. And no I didn’t find Europeans use more C or J, after a few googling cross checks.

Now the funny thing is my girlfriend is licensed to use the Amadeus network and in there they use their own research codes (they don’t really care about a specific letter : they want the best price) however I did find that Amadeus uses C as a standard, and it stands for “Club” and they write it “C : club (business)”

I called J the generic letter because it’s the IATA standard, the fact it is followed or not is another matter (and proof there is that airlines keep to C for the lack of need to change : why would they ?). IATA produces recommendations and since this one is not about safety, FAA EASA or other local entities wouldn’t really care about enforcing it

It just came as a surprise for knowing a lot of people speak in “Y/J/F” (for example a friend works in Air France and whatsapped me her upgraded Air France long haul ticket to J, which is also used in Lufthansa in parallel to C apparently), and I checked the English Wikipedia entry and found J again as the “norm”. Also it’s not a European thing, in an explanation I saw USA tickets with J as well.

Seems like they just coexist, while other fares have only one standard full fare code, ultimately it’s up to each airline for the other letters although they stick to a few standard letters (P, Z etc) and the emergence of premium economy makes coexist “P” which was “upgraded class in a 3 cabin planes between economy and business” and W which is basically this description (example in my airline, Norwegian B787 used W as Premium)

C was the original designator, when business class wasn’t much more than a slightly upgraded Y service. British Airways used the term ‘Club Class’ and it stuck as an industry norm. When airlines introduced devotes business class cabins with much better seating, J was used to designate them. They were seen as a premium business class, as opposed to the fancy economy class (same Y seats, just better meals and usually and empty seat).