Crew change costs comprise a big portion of the ship management budget, where marine flights play important role. Understanding how marine airfare works is key to saving costs.

Complexity of airline industry grows every year because airlines use dynamic pricing, online sales channels and introduce more and more options to charge passengers. Think only of low-cost airlines (which don’t have marine airfares, by the way), which have dramatically changed the industry during past years.
Maritime industry is widely using a special ticket class called “marine airfare“. It is believed that it gives great flexibility at a reasonable price to ship managers. But how exactly it helps, why is it different and how it can save the budget?

Definition of “ticket class”

In order to have flexible pricing options airlines have invented “classes“. Initially they were used to separate types of seats, which have different class of comfort (think economy/business is modern terms). Nowadays airlines use air classes for a wide variety of reasons. The primary reason is pricing: airlines can divide an airplane in small parts of different size and price them differently. Other reasons are defining different rules for different prices: baggage allowance, legroom, service level, cancellation policy etc. Importantly, airlines are able to dynamically change both sizes, pricing and policies for classes. This gives them great flexibility in creating sales strategies for their needs.

“Air Class” means price category for a certain flight. Class usually has it’s own rules and restrictions. Most important conditions for a class are cancellation policies and baggage rules.

Therefore, whenever you buy you flight for a vacation or you fly for business, your ticket has a special class attached to it. This class describes the scope of service you have bought as well as restrictions that apply. So, when they ask you to pay those €30 for your extra bag – blame your ticket class. If you cannot cancel your trip without penalties – it’s about your class again. A passenger sitting next to you can easily have a better class (which usually costs more), but be in the same part of the aircraft with you. So, ticket class is something a little bit virtual.

Is marine airfare cheaper?

Yes. But….

Marine airfares are meant for seafarers traveling to their ships. They can also be used for personnel involved in ship management. Typical uses of the marine airfare are:

  • seafarers flying to/from their vessels
  • yacht crew travelling to/from yachts
  • shipmanagers traveling for business purposes

4 major segments using marine airfares

Flights for merchant fleet crew

Merchant fleet crew typically works a few months on ships and then stay home for a few months. Logically it results in a big number of people flying around the world. However think about ships: they can sail faster or slower, get delays because of weather or cargo operations. Therefore buying regular tickets will be problematic: if you cancel the cheapest ticket class, you will lose money you paid.

This is not the case with marine airfares. They are very flexible and allow changes at virtually no cost. In some cases you can even change the ticket after the flight took place. And you pay nothing.

Flights for offshore industry

Offshore crews fly more frequently because their employment contracts are shorter. This industry in fact generates more flights than the merchant fleet. Despite often offshore installations are fixed on the ground and don’t move (drilling, jack-up rigs, windmills), crew managers still require travel flexibility when in comes to air travel. Considering high frequency of crew changes and typically large number of crew, they need to be sure that if someone doesn’t fly for any reason, the company won’t lose money. Hence marine airfares are widely used on offshore sector.

Flights for passenger fleet

Those floating ladies have thousands of crew crew on board. They don’t fly as frequently as offshore and the size of this sector is smaller than previous two. However they almost always fly one way. One way tickets in regular passenger classes are notoriously expensive. Again, marine ticket classes have special prices.

Yacht crew flights

More or less for the same reasons crew and technical teams of yacht are eligible for all perks and benefits of marine flight tickets.

To sum it up

Marine airfares provide great flexibility for the industry that requires this flexibility. They provide big discounts for one-way travel. Marine tickets have large baggage allowance of 40kg. And some other benefits, which are required for seafarers to travel to their ships and back home.