One of the most frustrating things about traveling with OneWorld carriers is that you booking reference or record locator might not be the same among airlines. Some airlines use the same reservations system which makes this process much easier, but other do not. Specifically, American Airlines record locators are not the same as other OneWorld carriers.
If you book flights with American for travel on partner airlines this could create an issue. After booking your flights you’ll receive an American record locator which is not the same record locator you can use to manage your reservation with the operating carrier. This creates all sorts of issues when you’re trying to change seats or retrieve mobile boarding cards.
Even more frustrating is the fact that American Airlines doesn’t make it easy to find partner airline booking references. However there are a few tips and tricks that you can use to make it easier. Hopefully someday all OneWorld carriers will use the same reservation system, but until then here are a few things I do to find a record locator or booking references on partner airlines.
Call The Airline
This is my least favorite method because it requires you to pick up the phone and potentially wait on hold. However, it’s also the most effective. If you find yourself in a jam and absolutely need your booking reference this method will nearly always work.
The process of calling the airline for a partner airline record locator is simple. The only thing that you need to remember is to only call the airline who issued the record locator. So, if all you have is an American Airlines record locator, you must first call American. Likewise if you only have a British Airways booking reference, you must call BA first.
Once you get through to a representative have them pull up your reservation and then ask for the partner airline booking reference. The process shouldn’t take more than a few moments. Once you have the booking reference you can manage your reservation from the partner airline’s website.
Attempt To Change Seats Online
Another way to find a partner airline booking reference is to try to change seats online. With the known record locator go into your reservation and attempt to change seats on the partner airline flight. With AA and other OneWorld carriers this operation isn’t allowed and you’ll typically be redirected. When redirected the online portal will either give you the other airlines booking reference or take you to a page where the booking reference is available.
For example, in a few weeks I’ll be flying on a British Airways flight I booked through American. When I try to manage my American reservation I can only change seats on the American Airlines operated flights. Then, when I attempt to change seats on British Airways, I’m redirected to a BA reservations page with my BA booking reference at the top.
Every now and then when I try this method a redirect is not possible. Instead American directs me to call the partner airline and occasionally provides the booking reference in question. I obviously prefer the redirect method, but either way works.
Typing Your American Airlines Record Locator Into British Airways’ Website
So… I honestly didn’t know this would work until I did it out of desperation. This is potentially a “trick,” but I’ve never read about this anywhere else. In fact, it was this trick that prompted me to write this post.
Essentially, when I was looking for my British Airways Booking Reference I desperately tried to copy/paste my AA record locator into the British Airways mange my booking search page. I hit search and the website displayed the following error message.
I knew this was going to happen, but I figured why not give it a try. However, just below the error message I noticed something strange. The record locator (booking reference) in the search box wasn’t the one I provided. Somehow the record locator changed after I hit search? I assumed this was an error so I decided to search again using my AA record locator. Again I received an error message, but again the record locator in the box wasn’t the one I originally typed in.
At that point I became frustrated and decided to hit the “search” button again. Sure as heck the new booking reference was indeed my British Airways reference number. After searching again I found myself in the correct booking where I could now change seats!
After a few attempts it appears this trick on works for reservations that contain British Airways flights. This trick did not work on my upcoming Qantas or Cathay Pacific flights.
Update: After a quick FlyerTalk search this trick has been around since at least 2011, interesting to say the least.
Entering Your Frequent Flyer Number Into Your Reservation
If you book a flight from American I hope your AAdvantage number is already included in your reservation. However, if you book a flight from British Airways directly you may also add your AAdvantage number to your reservation. By adding your frequent flyer number to your OneWorld partner airline reservation you can at least keep track of your flights. This is especially useful if you don’t feel like having every OneWorld carriers mobile apps on your phone. Instead, you can just use the American app to view all of your OneWorld bookings.
The only issue with this method is that AAdvantage isn’t always the best program to credit miles on certain flights. For example most Cathay Pacific Economy flights don’t earn American Airlines miles. So you want to make sure to change your frequent flyer number before or during the check-in process. Once you check into a flight you may not be able to change your frequent flyer account.
Finding reservation numbers on partner airlines can often be a difficult process. It’s incredibly frustrating when your trying to select seats for your flights, but you don’t know your partner airline booking reference and therefore can’t do so. Luckily, through the process I’ve discovered a few different ways that work.
Of all the methods listed above I find calling the airline to be the most straightforward. Sure it’s a pain to sit on hold for a few moments, but once you reach a representative they can usually answer your question in a short while.
The reason the discrepancies between booking references and record locators exist is thanks to two different reservations systems. These systems, named Amadeus and Sabre, run behind the scenes and keep track of all of your travel information. Some airlines use Amadeus (British Airways) while others use Sabre (American).