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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!