Deciphering Your Boarding Pass: What Do All Those Letters and Numbers Mean?

by SharonKurheg

If you look at your boarding pass, there are some things that are obvious. Your name. The date. The airline you’re using. Your departure and arrival information. Where you’re supposed to sit on the plane. Boarding time.  Boarding group. Simple stuff.

But then there are some things, usually a gobbledygook of letters and/or numbers that are not as easy to decipher. Here’s some help…

Passenger Name Reference (PNR)

Screen Shot 2019-10-02 at 1.28.51 PM

Somewhere on your boarding pass, there will be 6 characters (on the above pic it’s the H7XEBP). That’s your Passenger Name Reference (PNR) (sometimes called a reservation code) and the airline generated it when you made your reservation. If you call the airline to make any sort of change to your reservation, that’s the code you would give them. Keep in mind that on the airline’s end, typing in this code will bring up your name, flight information, meal preferences, any special services you’ve requested (like a wheelchair), etc. That’s one of the reasons why you don’t want to dispose of your boarding pass until you’re somewhere where you can shred it (or at least rip it up into a bajillion pieces) – to maintain the confidentiality of personal information. And for heaven’s sake, don’t ever do this with your boarding pass, either! (Too bad Marco Rubio didn’t know that one, huh?)

Single Letter


A single letter on a boarding pass shows what class of ticket you bought. Most airlines have different fare classes, which are represented by different letters of the alphabet. F usually stands for first-class and C or J typically means business class. If you’re flying economy class, chances are you’d have a Y or Q on your boarding pass. The letters usually aren’t arbitrary and can vary from airline to airline. For example, that C for the business class came about when Pan Am was still around – they had a class of service called “Clipper Class,” which was for business and full-fare economy passengers.

That one little letter can tell airline employees information like how much you paid for your ticket, how many frequent flyer miles you’ll get for the flight, and the amount of flexibility you have to change your reservation. Airlines, reservation systems and travel agents often use fare classes to keep track of tickets sold and fare class availability.


a close-up of an e-ticket

If you see SSSS (Secondary Security Screen Selection) on your boarding pass, it means you won lost the TSA lottery and will have to go through some extra security measures when you go through the TSA checkpoint. Click here for more info about it.

Other Things You May See

The above examples are things that are on just about everyone’s boarding pass. Here are a few things that will only be on the boarding passes of specific travelers with specific plane activities:

Codeshare information

If you bought your ticket via one airline but it’s on another airline (more info about that is here), information about that codesharing would be on your boarding pass.


An overseas flight expected to last 6 hours or more.

Open Jaw

When a passenger departed from one city but is returning to a different city.


Nope, not “significant other” ;-). A S/O on your boarding pass means you’re going to have a stopover.


Stopover paid by carrier. Boy, didn’t YOU luck out – the airline is going to pay for your hotel because your connection is just THAT far away in the future.

There are other things that airline employees can tell from all those letters and numbers that are kept under wraps. You know, “If I told you, I’d have to kill you” sort of stuff. But the above is a pretty good idea of what we, as passengers, would ever need or want to know 🙂

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


DC not in DC November 19, 2023 - 10:23 pm

Is this from 1993? US Airways? Paper boarding pass? Save your digital boarding pass from your digital airline app by taking a screen shot. Then text or email it to yourself as an attachment. You can also save it to Google Wallet, Apple wallet, etc.

SharonKurheg November 19, 2023 - 10:37 pm

Not everyone uses digital boarding passes. Some are aware they have access to it, but would just as soon be able to quickly grab the paper boarding pass out of their pocket and hold it in 2 fingers than pull out their phone, unlock it, go to their wallet and get it that way.

Sam November 20, 2023 - 8:35 am

Thanks for sharing! What does “sequence” mean?


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