Every airline ticket has an identification code, though the name of the code itself can vary. You may hear it referred to as an “airline record locator,” a “reservation number,” a “booking code,” or a “flight confirmation code.” Whatever name is used, the code is an alphanumeric sequence typically six characters long that identifies a specific reservation.
These are used in conjunction with a PNR, which stands for “Passenger Name Record.” A PNR contains personal information about the passenger, so, taken together, a record locator and PNR tie a specific person to a specific reservation. Technically, a PNR isn’t the same thing as a flight confirmation code, but the two are often conflated.
Passengers and airline employees use flight confirmation codes and PNRs to manage existing reservations or check into a flight.
Note that while you may have booked an entire flight itinerary in one transaction, if your itinerary includes more than one airline you may have different record locators and PNRs for the same trip. For instance, if the first segment of your trip is on United Airlines and the second is on Lufthansa, the PNRs will be different for each segment.
Sometimes, the airline through which you booked your trip will show both their PNR and the partner airline’s PNR, but that’s not very common. You may need to call both airlines to make sure you’ve got all the confirmation codes you need.
When you receive an email confirming your ticket purchase, it should include your flight confirmation number prominently—often in the subject line as well as near the top of the email itself. Many airlines will also show your confirmation number on the screen just after you’ve booked, even before an email is sent, and the code will also be on your boarding pass once you’ve checked in. If you have any trouble finding it, call the airline.
At any point after booking, you can use your confirmation code to check your reservation on the airline’s website. It’s a good idea to write the number down somewhere, whether that’s an app on your phone or an actual piece of paper in your wallet, so it’s handy until you’re back from the trip.