a seat in a plane

Already confused? Sorry – we’re just trying to help. This post offers a clever tip for bookings with two or more passengers. With the advice in this article you can: save money on changes, upgrade and even cancel without affecting your fellow bookers. Here’s when and why travelers should consider splitting their PNR – otherwise known as the airline confirmation number.

a row of seats on an airplaneSplitting

A PNR is how an airline recognizes a reservation. It’s the 5,6 or 7 digit confirmation code you get after booking – something like Q7ROG4R. For the most part, being on the same PNR as your travel companions makes things easier – but there are a few times when it can actually cause quite a headache. No one likes headaches, right? Splitting a PNR is taking any reservation with two or more passengers and assigning the passengers their own PNR, on separate tickets.


More than 1 passenger but only one upgrade available so far? Snag it! If only one upgrade is available, you can’t upgrade a PNR with two or more passengers. But if you split the PNR, you can grab that upgrade – and set alerts for when a subsequent upgrade opens. This is a far more effective strategy than waiting for two upgrades at the same time.

Changing One

Does a travel companion need to jet off early, or come back late? Without affecting your reservation they can – if you split the PNR before making changes. This makes things easier and helps keep people from ruining plans. Same goes for needing to cancel one ticket.

Why Not

There are reasons not to split PNR’s too, so don’t if you don’t need to. If one of the travelers on the reservation has elite status or is entitled to free bags or extra bags, you’ll want to get a part of that. Same goes for free upgrades or good treatment during bad weather. Only split PNR’s if a situation arises where it can benefit you. Don’t do it just for giggles. You should never need to give much of a reason, other than flexibility.

Have you split a PNR to your advantage?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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1 Comment

  1. Decent advise for some situations.
    Also don’t split PNRs by segment. It used to be you could search and book awards by segment and you’d end up with several PNR’s for each flight. So for example you find award space from ORD-CDG but then later book a separate positioning award booking for say STL-ORD. Now you have separate PNR’s on the same journey. Trouble is that many of the airlines will no longer through check bags (even on their own metal) because they seem to think that they can generate additional revenue at the expense of customer service. Although this is a good reason not to check a bag, sometimes you need to.

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