How can you be 100% sure your ticket is confirmed…psst, not with a booking ref

If you’ve ever booked a flight, shown up at the airport, and the friendly agent told you they can’t find your reservation, you’ve probably shoved the booking confirmation at her, and shouted things like “What do you mean? I booked this 2 months ago!! I have the confirmation right here”. You are not alone.

You probably have some official looking email with a large booking reference, like this: YNN87U

This is called a PNR or Passenger Name Record. When a booking has been made, by an airline, an Online Travel Agent (OTA), or a regular travel agent, they need to create a PNR to first reserve the ticket before they can ask for payment and issue a ticket. The first step is fairly straight-forward. The last step, the ticketing or issuing a ticket, is really the only part that matters.


There are a number of reasons why you may have received a PNR without having a confirmed seat on that flight.

  1. Your credit card was declined or payment didn’t go through
  2. The airline suspected your credit card and booking of fraud, and promptly cancelled the PNR (usually without notifying you)
  3. The availability was low, and from the time when the PNR was created, until the time of ticketing, there were no more seats left at that price and the ticketing was abandoned. This is common when booking on an OTA, and mostly you get notified, but may miss the “That booking actually isn’t… ” email an hour or so after your initial confirmation email
  4. And I’m sure a plenty of other valid reasons, which you don’t care about when your standing there hyperventilating in front of the check-in desk.

There is only one way to avoid this. It’s a 13 digit ticket number that looks like this 112-2333444556 … mostly


Each passenger is issued their own ticket number, unlike PNRs where multiple passengers can be booked on the same PNR. If you don’t see this number on your booking confirmation, there is a good chance your ticket is not confirmed. You should immediately call the airline to check, and ask specifically for your ticket number. Better safe than crying.