Confirmed Reservation vs Ticketed Reservation

One common question I’m asked is: “what is the difference between a Confirmed Reservation vs Ticketed Reservation?

Airline systems absolutely fascinate me – especially the way they sync with the airlines’ websites, flight information display systems, mobile apps, etc. Also, how airline integration works is a super cool subject – just seeing how various airlines partner with each other and how their systems are set up is something amazing. Maybe I’m just being a bit too geeky here, but these things just fascinate me (perhaps with my future degree, I will be able to work on systems like these).

It is actually super important to know the difference – if you don’t, you might not be able to fly. I recently had an issue where one of my reservations was confirmed but not ticketed, and as departure approached, I was getting a bit worried because you can’t fly if your confirmed reservation isn’t ticketed.


Confirmed means the reservation has been created, all of your information has been stored in the system and a Record Locator/Confirmation Number or PNR (Passenger Name Record) has been issued – and the flights are being held for you. For example, American Airlines allows you to hold an award reservation for a few days – basically the reservation is created, the flights are reserved for you and the space is being held, meaning no one else can have “your” space when you have a reservation on hold. This is very useful because you could then transfer Starpoints (for example) to AA if you don’t have enough miles to purchase (or “ticket”) the reservation.

American Airlines
American Airlines

To summarise the above, you can hold a reservation for a few days while the miles/points transfer and you’re guaranteed those flights while it is being held for you – that is until you ticket the reservation (or until it expires if you don’t buy it). This works the same way for both money and miles flights, though flights purchased with money usually have a very short hold time (if they even have the option to hold it at all).


A reservation has two important numbers to it – the confirmation number (or PNR/Record Locator) and the ticket number(s). You can have one reservation with three people on it and because you only have one reservation, you also only have one confirmation number. However, everyone needs their own ticket number. A ticket number is personal and each passenger needs their own ticket to fly.

Think of it like this – you buy three tickets for a boat ride, each person needs their own ticket to board the boat. You might also be given an itinerary showing how many passengers there are, when the boat leaves, etc. Airlines work similarly to this – the itinerary is the reservation that has the tickets attached to it and each person needs their own ticket to fly.

When a reservation is purchased, the confirmed reservation goes into the ticketing queue, with most airlines, the reservation gets ticketed a few minutes after you purchase and confirm it. Some airlines take longer to ticket a reservation. Remember when airlines had paper tickets? That’s what an e-ticket is now and you need it to fly – you can’t fly without a ticket.

It is also important to note that if any changes are made to the reservation, the tickets attached to that reservation need to be reissued (the new flights must be confirmed on the ticket for each ticket). It can be a bit confusing and misleading to many people because airline systems usually only display the confirmed reservation to the passenger (on their app or website), and not the actual ticketed reservation. It gets even more confusing because some airlines don’t have an online way to ensure the reservation has been ticketed.

United Airlines
United Airlines

Here’s what recently happened to me: I used my United miles to book a flight on Lufthansa and within seconds I was able to see the confirmed reservation online – however it hadn’t been ticketed yet because there was no ticket number attached to my name on the reservation. A few minutes later, United emailed me with the e-ticket receipt (this is a confirmation of what flights you are ticketed on and should match the reservation) and I was also able to see this online.

A few days later, I needed to change the flights and called United, they confirmed me on the new flights and the reservation showed the new flights online. However, upon checking my e-ticket receipt, it was still showing the old flights – that means the ticket hasn’t been reissued and I’m technically still on the old flights. This is usually when things get messed up – the ticket doesn’t get reissued and people show up at the airport only to find out they should have flown some other time as their ticket was still the original one and hadn’t been reissued even though the reservation had been confirmed with the new flights.

In my scenario, I obviously wasn’t able to check-in since the Lufthansa system was still referencing to the old ticket that I had changed. After a few moments, my ticket number changed and I was informed it was reissued, the e-ticket receipt was then showing the new flights, and I was able to check-in online since the reservation was now referencing the new ticket.

Hopefully all of this information helps you with your travels. It is important to note that you shouldn’t worry too much about this, but always be sure to double check your reservation and e-ticket receipt and make sure you have a ticket number and the flights on the ticket match the flights on the reservation (especially if changes are made). Most airlines nowadays are good at re/issuing the ticket right away, but their systems aren’t perfect and there is a chance your ticket could be stuck in the ticketing queue – a simple call to the airline solves this issue.

If you have any questions at all regarding a Confirmed Reservation vs Ticketed Reservation, please feel free to ask because I know this can be a bit confusing to the average person!


  1. So on Alaska if it shows “confirmed reservation” but has an e-ticket number for travel on Emirates im good right?

    1. Yes! As long as you have an e-ticket number and the flight segments on your e-ticket match your reservation, you are all set! I would also double check on the Emirates website to ensure your ticket number shows up there too.

  2. Hello,

    I just booked a one way ticket (very cheap from FLL to SFO for only $141 during the holiday. I have not been ticketed yet since it’s only been 2 hours. The price however has change substantially to now over $1,500. Should I be worried? Will I be ticketed at that price?

    Thank you.

    1. Since you’re not travelling this week, I’d give it 24 hours to ticket before calling the airline. You will be ticketed at the price you purchased.

  3. Reservation number is that i check in already. .so i go to airport. .go to machine and get my ticket

  4. I was Ticketed within 24 hours but am still not Confirmed [Confirmed Email] a week later. I called AA to get the email and she said she’d send it. 2 days later still no email. So I am Ticketed and have a Record Locator. But 3 trips made week before all had an E-Ticket Confirmation with record locater and scan code email sent within a day.
    Am calling AA aGAIN but will send this also in meantime.

  5. Hello
    I booked a ticket with aa but all flight is operated by ba.I have 2 PNR who it is work.I can see my e ticket number on aa but can not see it on manage my booking on ba.Is it normal?Do you think my reservation is ok?

  6. Hello,
    I received both confirmation and eTicket# from Expedia upon my booking. Later, I realized that my first name and second name were interchanged so called the agency to correct my name and it’s all done. Lastly I visited Cathay Pacific official website and checked my reservation – But for some reason, I can see my booking status under the confirmation but no accessable thru my eTicket#. Do you think this is ok?

    1. Your e-ticket number probably changed, so the old one isn’t valid anymore. Did you get a new e-ticket number?

  7. I booked an award ticket using points on aa.com on my husbands aa rewards # for my daughter. Paid the taxes, changed the name to hers and it is now ticketed. Do you think this is ok? My daughter will not have a proble at airport? I do it this way on delta all the time….seams different on American.

    1. If she is travelling and her name is on the ticket, then there will be no issue. You can book tickets for other people with most airlines.

  8. I booked a ticket on Delta’s website, I have a confirmation number but no receipt and no itinerary have been emailed, I paid on my debit card and the transaction still has not gone through, hoe long does it usually take?

    1. I have purchased a ticket last night on american airlines for a flight for janaury 19 and i have not get my confirmation and it is showing that my ticket is being pending. Am a bit concern here cause i dont know what to do since i need it to travel by friday

      1. It should be ticketed within 24 hours of purchase if travel is within 7 days. If it isn’t, I would give them a call.

  9. Hi Dominik,
    I have an EK reservation that was booked through Alaska Airlines miles.
    On Alaska Airline’s website, the confirmation code and the eticket # are shown.
    On the EK website, when I click on the Ticket Status link, I get an empty ticket template. In the flights section of the booking, the status is Confirmed.

    Any idea what could be wrong?
    BTW, I do have another copy of the eticket for which I requested from EK directly two months ago.

    Just want to be sure that EK hasn’t altered my reservation, which did happen before.

    1. Hi there! As long as your itinerary looks good on AS website and the ticket is there (027….), then I would assume you’re fine. Since AS is the issuing airline, any changes made should reflect on their website. If you want to be extra sure, I would just give EK a call.

  10. I have a confirmation email from a ticeting website w ith the codes. The flight isn’t for another 3 months.It’s not showing on the airline’s website yet. Is something wrong?

  11. Hello,

    I just bought online a ticket for tomorrow to go to Sri Lanka from Basel. the problem is that in the e mail with my reservation number (the 6 letter one) there is a message stating that i will receive my e-ticket in 15 days!!!
    What do i do? can i go to the airport with my little reservation number and passport?
    Thank you

  12. Hello Dominik,

    Thank you for the great explanation! Recently, I had a flight cancelled through American Airlines due to weather. I called AA to rebook and the AA agent could only find an available flight through United Airlines. The AA agent gave me a confirmation number but did not reissue the tickets. When I arrived at the airport with my family, United had given my seat to someone else because although I had a confirmation number, I did not have the tickets reissued. This all happened within a span of about 36 hours. I arrived early at the airport for check in. There were no other available seats for me until a week later. My entire trip was cancelled because my tickets were not reissued. Am I entitled to compensation from the airline?

    1. Technically you should be since they didn’t rebook you properly. However, it depends on why the original AA flight was cancelled. Weather cancellations usually do not provide compensation since it is outside of the airline’s control.

  13. Hi I’ve enjoyed reading your article, I’ve got a question for you.

    Are the ticket and receipt my boarding pass or it’s completely different ?

    1. Completely different – you get a boarding pass at check-in, before the flight. You get the ticket and receipt as soon as you buy the ticket.

  14. Hi. I can travel without visa to a Pacific country provided I have “return/onward tickets”. I do not want to buy a return ticket yet. I prefer to make booking through a fare hold option available e.g. on Air New Zealand web. Do you know whether I will be allowed to board the plane having a booking reference number, but not the actual ticket number?
    Thank you

    1. That is tricky – it would depend on whoever is boarding you. It also depends based on that airline’s rules. If you don’t want a return ticket yet, I would buy a refundable ticket right before boarding and then cancel it later. That way you have a confirmed ticket to show in case you are asked.

  15. What does o in ticket status mean? How would I know if it is confirmed? When I try to check my booking in the website it said that my pnr is invalid. Whyyyy?

    1. If your PNR is invalid, then either you are typing it wrong or the reservation doesn’t exist. It is confirmed if you have both a ticket and PNR number.

  16. hi i have just bought two flights on an airline website and after provideing my personal information and credit card number they gave me this message. they didnt ask for my pasport number at any moment wich seemed a little bit strange
    “your reservation has been created but not ticketed. please contact our customer care department”
    i have my reservation code number but i cant understand what else should i do.
    appreciate any help!

  17. Dominik,
    Thank you for your post.
    Who do you think is liable for not issuing the e-ticket, the passenger or the airline?
    In other words, is the passenger responsibility to communicate to the airline that the e-ticket has not been issued?
    Thank you

    1. It is tricky – I always check and make sure it is issued, but a regular person might not know to do that, in which case the airline should identify it and fix it. The airline needs to provide you the service after you pay.. so it should be them.

  18. Hello I booked a virgin Atlantic flight through travel agent and wanted to upgraded it with air miles but they said it would have to be so ticketed and non refundable so I went ahead and got an e ticket no. I called the travel agent a few weeks later and they offered me an upgrade to buisness class and change the outbound flight from PM to AM I went ahead but now I have too booking references with both deferent bookings on. The old one is ticketed but the new one isn’t what should I do ? I fly in 6 months

  19. Hi, I have flights booked for a trip to Australia. I went through a travel agency to book my flights to and from Australia. One of my flight’s status is confirmed but says that my seat is unconfirmed. But I have an eTicket receipt. What exactly does this mean? Do I need to confirm my seat ahead of time?

    I also have another flight with a confirmed status and the seat says check-in required. This also has an eTicket.

    Could you explain this to me a little more in depth? This is the first time I will be traveling out of country and so I am trying to gather as much knowledge as possible to prepare myself.

  20. I booked a ticket from smartfares.com from Montego Bay Jamaica to Frankfurt Germany for $805. After almost 24 hours it still says status pending and the ticket price has gone up. Will i be charges for the current ticket price or will i pay the amount i reserved it for?

  21. Hi, I booked a ticket through Delta for myself and two other people. I checked and we all have a ticket number but I’m not able to print the e-ticket is it fine if I just go with the ticket number?

  22. Hi there! My cousin booked a flight in Cathay Pacific asked me to check it on the website. I enter the e-ticket number and booking reference but the number is invalid and reservation could not be found. He’s a bit worried about it. Any suggestion?

  23. I made reservations with American Airlines in March for flights in May. My app shows them as Ticketed. Last week my wife & I received our TSAPreCheck KTN’s. I added them to our online profile AND I called the airline to confirm. Will the KTN’s be on our Boarding Pass – even though flights were ticketed before we received them?

  24. flying Delta, had a confirmation # , seat 10d, all in a email which read “And don’t worry about reconfirming your flights, you’re all set!” arrived at the airport, Delta counter they didn’t have me in the system no name no confirmation #. (showed them the email) flight was full, Delta could not help, would miss my connection if I waited for the next flight. Drove two hours to another airport, got on a flight, arrived 8 hours later than my original plan. you ever hear of Delta losing all info?

  25. Hi,
    I booked a trip on a ticketing website from Portugal(OPO)-Lima and La Paz-Portugal(OPO) for which I received a Confirmed Reservation (but not the tickets). It’s 6 flights in total with KLM/COPA and LATAM/KLM.
    A few hours later they sent me an email saying the airline had made changes to the flights. I called the website’s call-center and they said one of the flights had been cancelled by the airline and offered to look for alternatives – a 300€ more expensive trip. Afterwards a quick online check showed the supposedly cancelled flight was still programmed.
    I therefore changed my attitude and demanded the tickets be issued…
    What is going on? Do I have the right to demand this? I suspect they messed up somehow and are trying not to do the cleaning up…

  26. Hi, i booked an award(AUH-JFK)+revenue(JFK-CMH) ticket with AAdvantage miles on etihad & AA.I have one record locator but two ticket numbers.The AA agent said still the trip is considered as SINGLE trip and i can through check-in my bags.Is it true? or do we need single ticket number for this through check-in?Do AA will take care if my first leg of Etihad is delayed and missed my last leg of AA flight?Thank you.

  27. Hey, I have a return flight booked through an online travel agency. They have contacted me to say my flight has been cancelled. I contacted the airline and they said there is nothing they can do because it was not booked direct through them, but they have no record of a flight being cancelled. The flight it one month away and the agency have as yet offered no solution. What do I do ? Thanks.

  28. My wife and I have confirmation numbers and e-ticket numbers–so everything seems to be travel agency made these reservations, they also charged their service charge (which was not apparent to the average customer!) and taxes, fees, etc. in a separate fee to my debit card. However, since I only had enough to cover the ticket port charged by the airline and not their fees, their fees were declined by my financial institution and now they are very upset. They keep telling me to call, but I tell them I am in the Philippines without a phone that can call them. They are like robots and keep repeating to call them not matter how often I state that I can not call them. I will be in the U.S. a month before my flights, but I am thinking about “forgetting” to pay them their fees. Could the travel agency that originally made the airline reservations go back to that airline and put a hold on the confirmed reservations somehow, or are they just “pissing in the wind” and hoping I don’t know my rights?

Comments are closed.