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What is a Flight Confirmation Number?

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    Jonathan Chum

Confirmation Number

Every airline ticket that is issue contains a code or number. It can be called "booking code," "airline record locator," or "reservation number." Typically, it's alphanumeric, meaning it contains both numbers and letters, allowing the code to be short, around six characters long. This identification enables airlines to look up your travel itinerary quickly.

What is a Passenger Name Record?

Passenger Name Record or sometimes referred to as PNR, contains personal information (PI) data. For privacy reasons, the PNR and confirmation number in conjunction allows matching the travel itinerary with the passenger's information.

Suppose you happen to be traveling on different airlines that are part of an alliance or booked individual tickets. In that case, you will receive a unique confirmation number for each leg(s) with the airline.

For example, suppose you were flying on United from San Francisco to Bangkok with a layover in Harita, Japan, where you switch to another airline like Eva Airways.

In that case, you'd receive a United Confirmation Number for a leg between San Francisco to Harita and then another Eva Airways Confirmation Number between Harita, Japan to Bangkok, Thailand.

Some alliances will combine the confirmation code across airlines to simplify lookup if they can share personal data across systems.

Where do I find the Confirmation Number?

If you purchase a ticket through an online travel agency (OTA) like Expedia or Orbitz, you may receive one email that confirms the ticket's payment.

It would typically contain a code like a receipt number for the online travel agency to look up your itinerary in case there were any problems.

eTicket or receipt number is not to be confused with the flight confirmation number.

The agency then has to book the tickets either manually or automated with the airline.

Once the agency confirms the ticket, you will receive another email confirming the six characters' booking, an alphanumeric value known as the confirmation number.

Only then, when you received that, does it guarantee that you have a seat on the plane.

If you book directly with an airline such as United or American Airlines, they usually combine it into one email.

American Airlines confirmation number and eTicket number (receipt number) would be one email. The most important number of the two when checking in the airport or requesting help would be the confirmation number printed on the ticket.

There are some cases where you may not be issued a confirmation number. For example, if you are flying standby, you may only have an eTicket number.

Only until you check-in at the check-in counter would you receive a confirmation number on your boarding pass.
If you want to guarantee your seat before arriving at the airport and have not received your confirmation number, call the airline.