The Hidden Secrets of Your Airline Boarding Pass – Part 2

Denver, Colorado · About Transportation

As we discussed last week, understanding the codes and numbers shown on your airline boarding pass is a key step in enjoying a smoother more hassle free journey.

Due to the volume of information on a boarding pass, we will break the information up between the “Left” side of the pass and the “Right” side of the pass. This week we will start with the information on the “Left.”

Starting at the top left is generally where your name will appear. In this same area the various status qualifications you may have will also be displayed. These may include such things as your airline loyalty level status (if any) and any TSA status programs you may be enrolled in such as TSA Pre Check or Global Entry.

If a flight is codeshared - meaning you bought the ticket with one airline but the flight is operated by another partner airline, a line reading - Operated by….Airlines - will display in this general area as well. This will show you the actual airline flying the route.

Continuing down the left side of the ticket will be two uppercase letters followed by the flight number. The uppercase letters are issued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade association for international airlines, and indicate the airline.

The flight number is determined by the airline, using a complex algorithm that takes into account past and current airline flight numbers, as well as things like other airlines with similar sounding numbers scheduled to fly through the same airspace at the same time. This helps avoid potential confusion with pilots and air traffic control.

The flight numbers also reveal other information that will tell you more about your route. As an example lower numbers will generally show you how prestigious the route is. The longer more prestigious routes will generally have lower numbers.

Other things to be aware of with your flight number are:

  • An even number generally indicates you are flying East or North
  • An odd number generally indicates you are flying West or South
  • Generally a 4 digit flight number starting with a 3 or higher indicates you will be on a codeshare flight
  • A flight number may have hidden significance. As an example American 1776 flying between Philadelphia to Boston pays tribute to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which happened in Philadelphia in 1776
  • Superstition often influences numbers. As examples, many airlines have incorporated the number 8 into their Asian routes because that number is considered lucky in many Asian cultures. Likewise “unlucky” numbers like 13, 666 or 911 are not used.
  • Flight numbers that are associated with flights that have been in a crash or tragedy of some sort are traditionally retired and the new flight flying that route will be renumbered.

Below this information may be a code…. STPC…. which means you have a stopover of generally longer than a few hours and the airline will pay for necessary needs caused by this stop such as perhaps a hotel stay. A second type of stopover is normally displayed on the right side of the boarding pass which we will discuss next week.

This information will be followed by your showing your flight cities that you are flying to / from and your date of flight.

Open Jaw ticket information - which is where you depart from one city but return to a different city, will normally display under your flight information. Open Jaw itineraries are usually utilized on extended trips.

Finally on the left side will generally be your confirmation number and ticket number. While both of these generally convey the same information to the airline the Confirmation number should be given to the airline representative to most quickly locate your airline record. Your ticket number, sometimes also called the e-ticket number, can also be presented to attain your record information.

Next week we will continue our breakdown of the pass by looking at the information that generally appears on the right side of the boarding pass. We invite you to come back then to discover those hidden secrets on your journey to becoming an airline ninja!

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