As it turns out, for many airlines across the world and Australia, there are secret codes that airlines will print on your boarding pass at the time of check-in that can clue you in as to whether you’re in for a smooth journey or not. Frequent flyers – take note.
If your boarding pass displays the code ‘GTE’
An Air Canada ticket agent revealed to CBC that if someone has the letters ‘GTE’ printed on their boarding pass it means they don’t have a seat on their flight. This is usually due to overbooking, and the airline agent won’t tell you when you check in. Rather, they’ll send you to the gate and let you discover the bad news when you try to board the plane.
Does this happen in Australia?
This isn’t just a case of a foreign airline duping their passengers. Overbooking a flight is legal in Australia and is a common practice. In 2017 ABC reported that if an Australian airline flight is overbooked the practice is to ask for volunteers who are happy to give up their seat (for compensation) for the person who lost their seat. In Australia, in the case of overbooking, your airline is required to get you a seat on the next available flight or refund you.
What happens if you don't have a seat on a flight in Australia?
Qantas: An "incentive for volunteers not to travel on their booked flight" will be offered. Qantas policy also states it may "deny boarding to one or more passengers involuntarily" if there aren't enough volunteers.
Virgin: Passengers can be moved to the next service at no cost, and be "entitled to refreshment vouchers at two-hour intervals while you are in the airport awaiting your service". If that flight is the next day, they'll pay for hotel accommodation, transport to the hotel and $50 per person for meals
Jetstar: You'll be moved to a flight to arrive "within a reasonable time of your original scheduled arrival time". Jetstar doesn't list specific compensation in their policy, only that you may be entitled to some form of it.
If your boarding pass displays ‘SSSS’
The Sun Online reports that boarding passes displaying the code ‘SSSS’ stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection, and passengers with this code are subject to additional checks at security.
If your boarding pass displays ‘WCHR’ or ‘CHML’
Boarding passes with these codes refer to either the passenger being a wheelchair user (WCHR), or that a child’s meal has been requested (CHML).
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