Airlines sell tickets for other carriers' flights

The Baltimore Sun

You recently took my daughter to the airport for an 8:50 a.m. flight. Although you did a good job of getting her there - she was an hour early - she missed the flight. Her ticket said US Airways (which is in Terminal 1 at Los Angeles International Airport), but she actually was on a United flight (which is in Terminal 7). It was a code share. How were we supposed to know? Why didn't you know this? What kind of aunt-sister are you?

Judith Ramsey, Arnold, Md.

Wait a minute. You think just because you're my older sister you can yell at me and boss me around? Well, listen, missy. Oh, wait. We'll have that discussion later, preferably in front of Mom.

The discussion we really need to have is about code shares, why they can be confusing and what you can do about them.

Airlines use code shares for a couple of reasons, airline experts told me.

"From an airline's perspective, in recent years they have been contracting, yet they want to extend their reach," said Jerry Chandler, a travel blogger for

So if you're US Airways and you want to appear to have a healthy business out of L.A., you may buddy up with United Airlines. Code shares "combine the marketing muscle of both airlines," said George Hobica, founder of, which researches and lists low airfares on all airlines.

So how can the consumer ensure he's at the right terminal?

When you book a ticket, you may notice that sometimes there are two airlines flying the same route at exactly the same time. That's usually a first clue that it's a code share.

If you think you may have a code-share situation, call the airline and ask.

Then scan your itinerary. It should say "operated by." In this case, it should have said "US Airways flight operated by United." In this case, it didn't. The itinerary I was looking at doesn't say boo about United, so the foul-up really wasn't my fault. Although United did charge a $75 change fee when my niece rebooked, Expedia, which sent the itinerary, gave the buyer's online account a $100 credit.

So, actually, the Ramseys came out $25 ahead.

Next time, though, I'll be sure to do a little sleuthing before dropping a kid at the curb (the kid, in this case, is 34 and was fine fending for herself).

Lessons learned, apologies made and accepted by all parties (except Expedia, which was curiously quiet). So I guess we don't have to call Mom in after all.

Catharine Hamm writes for the Los Angeles Times.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad