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Old 21st Jan 2011, 20:18   #1 (permalink)
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
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Booking References

Here's a rather obscure question someone in a commercial department or who works for a travel agent may be able to answer. My Mum booked a flight on Malaysia Airlines and asked me to check her booking (she thinks that I understand these things).

She had a standard six alphanumeric digit booking code which you get with most airlines. There was also a five digit check digit check in code. I tried the MH website which did not recognise the booking reference - when I rang the airline they said that it was the travel agency code - nothing to do with them.

This made me think. There are about 1 billion combinations of six letters / numbers (excluding 'O' & 'I') - doubtless more than the number of outstandong reservations with all the world's airlines at one time. But how are they generated? Is it randomly? Presumably there is a system so that they are unique amongst all airlines (when I did a booking on BA/QF both airlines used the same booking for the itinerary). Can you glean any information from the booking reference?

Also, is there any connection with the 13 digit e-ticket reference, where the first three digits identify the airline (125 = BA, 074 = KLM for example)? Some airlines like KLM seem to use the e-ticket code quite a lot, others just refer to the six digit booking reference.

Last edited by Peter47; 22nd Jan 2011 at 11:24. Reason: Spelling
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Old 22nd Jan 2011, 06:15   #2 (permalink)
 
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I think there would be about 1.5billion possible permutations. And as a large number of bookings are made fairly close to the departure date I doubt there would be that many in existence at one time. If it does get to that stage I imagine the booking reference would be increased to 7 or 8 digits.
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Old 22nd Jan 2011, 13:17   #3 (permalink)
 
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No idea except I've noticed some airlines (American for one) only use letters and others use letters and numbers.
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Old 30th Jan 2011, 18:12   #4 (permalink)
 
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Wikipedia has a short entry on booking references, but does not give any detail on how they are generated. Each booking system, whether travel agent, airline or bus company, creates a booking reference (BR) as a key to the Passenger Information Record (PIR) in its own database when it records the booking. If a booking involves multiple carriers, and they use the same service, such as Amadeus or Sabre, then there is a single BR. If one uses Amadeus and the other Sabre (or some other system), then the passenger gets to see the original BR, and the systems negotiate behind the scenes so that the second system recognises the booking by its own BR, but can use other information associated with the booking (or its bit of the booking) to identify what it is responsible for providing.
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Old 30th Jan 2011, 19:00   #5 (permalink)
 
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The booking references go under many names, such as record locator, PNR reference, file key, and others. I believe they are actually a file address in the system but that I'm not too sure of. They are generated in a sequence although how that happens I don't know, but if two bookings were ended at the same time (which is of course not really possible as the system would process them milliseconds apart) they would have sequential locators such as ABC123 and ABC124. You might find that over a given period all bookings began with Y2, then G4, and so on.

Record Locators are handled differently by the GDSs which host other carriers, such as Sabre and Amadeus, and those which don't.

Amadeus hosts roughly 160 carriers. Some use the inhouse inventory system, SAA for example, and the Amadeus record locator and the SAA locator would be the same. Others don't use it, or use it partially, and there would therefore be 2 record locators, the GDS's one and the carrier's own. This is the case with BA, for example.

SABRE works similarly.

Travelport (Galileo/Worldspan) does not host carriers, and their would be their own locator, plus the 'vendor locator' of the carrier itself.

Just to make it more complicated, some OLTA's such as Expedia will overlay the GDS/carrier record locator with their own reference.

Confused ........... don't worry. Most of the airline staff are too!

By the way to answer the last part there is no connection between the record locator and the 13 digit (3 + 10) ticket number. They are allocated sequentially by BSP for travel agencies, or the airlines own system for in house issues). LCCs don't issue tickets and therefore there are no ticket numbers.
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