Airline locator numbers are numbers issued by the airlines to uniquely identify each reservation, and although not a necessary part of a traveler's experience, knowing your individual locator number can help expedite the process of checking into your flight and getting your tickets at the airport or when chatting with a customer service representative about problems with your reservation.
Airline locator numbers (or record locator numbers) are typically the confirmation code you receive when you book a flight on an airline, are usually six characters in length, and often feature a combination of both alphabetic and numeric characters.
There are many airline travel myths but it's a fact that airline locator numbers are unique, but only for a given period of time—not forever. Locator numbers are reused over time since once the associated reservation has been cleared or the travel has happened, they're no longer needed.
Record locator numbers basically point the airlines to your specific reservation in their systems, and they may also be referred to by other names including confirmation numbers, reservation numbers, or booking codes.
Where to Locate Your Record Numbers
Most airlines feature will automatically generate and display your record locator numbers on screen once you initially purchase your tickets, though sometimes airlines might wait to assign these until the customer receives a confirmation e-mail.
You can also call any airline representative (that you are flying with) and ask for your record locator number if you cannot find it in your e-mails; however, you can also access your ticket at the check-in station (either at the electronic kiosk or at the counter) by presenting your first and last name and the flight you are expected to be on or the credit card used to purchase the flight.
Once you receive your boarding pass, your record locator will be on the ticket, usually in more than one location. At this point, though, you should not need to remember or use your locator number unless there is a problem with your trip.
Tips for Expedited Check-In and Travel
It's advised that you write your record locator down when you receive it from the airline as this will greatly expedite the process of checking into your flight and printing your boarding pass on your day of travel.
Some passengers will write this alpha-numeric code down on a bookmark, in their phones' notes section, or on slips of paper kept in their wallets for easy access while others commit the 6-figure code to memory instead—whichever method you decide to use, knowing your record locator number before you arrive at check-in will make the entire process go much quicker.
As always, you should arrive at the airport with plenty of time before your flight in case some issue arises with retrieving your boarding pass. For most domestic travel with checked bags, you should allow at least an hour and a half before your flight to check in. For international travel, it is recommended you arrive two to three hours before the airline's boarding time to avoid rushing.