If this is your first time flying alone (or even if it isn’t!), I’ve been there. I vividly remember my first flight by myself and how stressful it was to navigate through the airport!
From checking my bags to getting through security, my first flight definitely wasn’t a breeze. One question that struck me that day, and I’m sure strikes many other first-time flyers, is “where is the flight number on the ticket?
Whether you have a physically printed ticket or just a boarding pass on your phone, knowing your flight number is crucial. Without it, you’ll never be able to find your gate, and you could wind up missing your flight!
What Is a Flight Number?
A flight number is a number an airline uses to refer to a specific flight route and departure time. Each airline has its own two-letter prefix that will be followed by four-digit numbers that vary depending on the flight.
This prefix is approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and does not change. Generally speaking, flights on the same airline that follow the same route each day and depart at the same time will always share a flight number.
If the airline and route are the same but the departure time is different, the two letters will stay the same while the four-digit numbers will change. Also, each flight segment has its own unique flight number. So, if you have a layover, you will actually have two tickets with different flight numbers.
Examples of Flight Numbers
The flight number normally consists of 1-3 letters followed by a 1-4 digit number. Here are some real flight numbers:
- DL8631: Delta Airlines flight from Washington DC to Paris
- UA1071: United Airlines flight from Newark to Chicago
- AA2340: American Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Dallas
- BA238: British Airways flight from Boston to London
- AM649: Aeromexico flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City
Where Is the Flight Number on a Ticket?
The flight number can appear anywhere on the flight ticket. While it is normally somewhere on the center or right side of paper tickets, this is not always the case. Luckily, the flight number will probably be the only thing on the ticket that starts with two uppercase letters and ends with 3-4 numbers, so you shouldn’t have much difficulty figuring it out.
The nice thing is that most airlines’ flight number prefixes simply make a lot of sense. In the examples above, AA stands for American Airlines, AM stands for Aeromexico, and BA stands for British Airways. If you know you’re flying on United Airlines, for example, you can probably guess that the 6-digit alphanumeric code starting with UA is your flight number.
Where Is the Flight Number on a Mobile Boarding Pass?
Every airline’s mobile boarding passes look different. On Delta Airlines, the flight number is usually in the top right corner. On many other airlines, the flight number is right in the center of the boarding pass.
The good news is that mobile boarding passes are created in a very user-friendly way, and there is no guesswork involved. With most major airlines, the flight number is clearly labeled and easy to find! With the rise of online check-in functions and mobile apps, you’re much more likely to use a mobile boarding pass than a paper ticket anymore, so this is very important information to know.
Are Flight Numbers and PNR Numbers the Same Thing?
Flight numbers and PNR numbers are not the same. the PNR number, or Passenger Name Record, is your booking reference. This code is normally 6 alphanumeric characters long, and either consists of all letters or a mix of letters and numbers.
Differences Between Flight Numbers and PNR Numbers
While each individual flight has its own flight number, all flights on the same booking share a booking code. This booking code is used to access your booking information with the airline, and it allows them to pull up all of your personal data regarding your trip. This includes many different things, like your flight information, email address, phone number, name, and seat number.
If you ever need to contact the airline about your booking, they will ask you for your PNR code and not for your flight number. The flight number is not specific to you, and there will be hundreds of other passengers traveling on the same flight. However, every passenger has their own PNR number.
Where Can You Find the PNR Number?
You can find your PNR Number, or flight confirmation number, in the confirmation email. Once you complete your flight booking, the airline sends you all of your flight details via a booking confirmation email.
While this email does not serve as a ticket, it does contain your electronic ticket number, PNR record locator, and other important details. Your e-ticket number usually isn’t necessary to know, because the employees at the check-in counter should already have it in the system. However, if the check-in agent runs into any errors when they insert your reservation number, knowing the e-ticket number can help to speed up the process of getting things fixed.
How Do Airlines Determine the Flight Number?
Airlines use a very complex algorithm to determine the flight number for each new route. While different airlines all have a different IATA code, no two flight routes by the same airline can share a flight number. So, if Delta Airlines launches a new flight route from Miami, FL to Boise, Idaho, it has to make sure that it creates an entirely new flight number for this route.
Generally speaking, outbound flights headed east and north have even numbers, and outbound flights headed west and south have odd numbers. This is a general rule, and it is not always the case.
Since airlines developed this rule, the number of outbound and inbound flights has gone way up, causing a bit of gray area with this rule. Still, you can use this rule of thumb to have good idea of which direction a flight is heading!
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