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Always, Always Write Down That Record Locator

I just had an experience that reminded me why you should always jot down your confirmation number when booking a flight. Even if you know it’ll show up on your online account, or in your email.

What just happened:

I (famously) have a Southwest Companion pass. Because I’m heading to Wisconsin next week to pick up my daughter Nutmeg from college, I needed to add her as a companion to the return portion of my flight only. The Southwest web site doesn’t offer a way to do that, so I needed to call.

A friendly agent manually entered her as a companion on the return portion for me. No problem. Except that, as soon as I hung up, I noticed that the flight had disappeared from my account on the Southwest app.


As far as I could see, I was no longer flying to Midway and back next week. WTF?

I refreshed a bajillion times to see if the flight would come back to my screen. Nope. I checked the app. It had also disappeared from there.

Did the agent accidentally cancel my flight? I checked my email for a cancellation and refund. Nothing.

I thought I was going to have to call Southwest again. But before I did that, I googled Southwest reservation lookup. A form came up asking for the confirmation number. I had it — in my email, granted, but if I had really thought about it, I should have written it down in case the email accidentally got deleted.

By entering my name and the confirmation number (aka record locator), I was able to pull up the vanished flight. So I still had a ticket. But why had it disappeared from my account? Studying the details on the page, I noticed one window that was blank: The Rapid Rewards number.

When I typed in my RR# and saved, the flight once again showed up on my account. Somehow, the agent — or the computer — had removed this crucial detail from my reservation while adding my daughter to my flight.

This isn’t the first time that knowing the record locator has saved my butt.

When I was planning my France trip, I made and canceled several different flight reservations. American Airlines, I’ve learned, is not very good at refunding your miles when you cancel a reservation. You often have to follow up and nag them about it. What’s worse, my many flight changes had muddied up my record with American. When I made another change shortly before my flight, and didn’t get the miles, I called them yet again, only to have American claim that the flight I’d canceled that day had already been refunded two weeks earlier. Huh? I talked to many different agents, and all of them insisted that nothing was owed to me.

This went on until I realized I was going to need more documentation. I searched my email for the record locators, but found to my dismay that American had not sent them all to me. Fortunately, I found the Google doc where I had noted down the record locator of each on-hold and ticketed reservation I’d made. When I told agent number 6 (or more) one of the specific record locators that I had canceled, she found that instead of refunding one of those reservations upon cancellation, the agent I’d talked to two weeks earlier had accidentally refunded a different, active reservation. They refunded a reservation that had never been canceled!

So when I later canceled that new reservation, as far as American Airlines knew, I had already been refunded and they didn’t owe me anything. I don’t think I would have ever worked out the mess had I not been able to give a specific record locator for the agent to check. It also helped that I had finally found an agent willing to dig a little deeper instead of just reading me the easy line off the script.

So there you have it, kids: Write down those record locators. Don’t depend on the airline web site or your email to keep track for you.