Record locator codes for airline codeshare flights

These days, when you purchase an airline ticket from one airline, it’s quite possible that your actual flight will be on another airline.  Most airlines have codeshare arrangements with other airlines so that they can sell seats on flights operated by other airlines.  When shopping for airfare, you may find a lower fare being offered by another airline instead of buying from the airline operating the flight you want to take.

I have a trip planned to Seattle, WA.  While I was shopping for airfare, I noticed that American Airlines was offering a lower fare for the Alaska Airlines flight I wanted to book.  I booked the flight with American Airlines and saved about $50 for 2 tickets.  The confirmation shows that it is an American Airlines flight, but in small print it says “operated by Alaska Airlines.”  That’s the phrase to look for that tells you you’re on a codeshare flight.

I have flown on codeshare flights before.  When I went to Europe last year, I had purchased the airline tickets through United Airlines.  Out of the 6 flights in the itinerary, 3 were on Lufthansa.  When I made that reservation, the confirmation showed me a record locator code for United and a separate code for Lufthansa.  Having both codes allowed me to check in online with Lufthansa on the way home, since the first leg of the return trip was on a Lufthansa flight.

When I got the confirmation from American Airlines for my flights to and from Seattle, it included the record locator code for American, but no code for Alaska Airlines.  A little research on American’s web site told me that I could not check in online for these flight through the American Airlines web site.  I would have to check in with Alaska Airlines.  But to do that, I would need a record locator code issued by Alaska Airlines.

I tried calling American Airlines and got run around in circles with their automated phone system.  After wasting about 20 minutes with American, I called Alaska Airlines.  Within a minute, I was talking to a live person.  I explained the situation and the operator provided me with the Alaska Airlines record locator code for my flights.  Since I already have an account with Alaska Airlines, I was able to log in to their web site, enter my newly received locator code and now my Seattle flights are displayed on my Alaska Airlines account.  This should allow me to check in online the day before departure.

If you purchase a codeshare ticket, make sure you know which carrier’s web site to go to when you’re ready to check in online.  If you prefer checking in at the airport, you should always go to the carrier that is operating the flight, not necessarily the one that sold you the ticket.  And if you find that you haven’t been issued a record locator number for the operating airline, call that airline and request their code before your departure.  That’ll be one less thing you have to think about right before departure.

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