The Basics Travel Guide

Why It Is So Important To Check Your Airline Reservations

southwest still geo-blocking
Written by Charlie

Many things can go wrong with your airline reservations – and they can cause big problems! Here is why you should check them and what to do.

We are so used to using our computers to order something, book something, reserve something, etc. and then assume that it is taken care of! Unfortunately, even in this advanced technological world we live in, it does not always work like that.

Especially when it comes to airline reservations. While things are certainly easier than they used to be, there are still some problems that can pop up with your airline reservations.

Why It Is Important To Check Your Airline Reservation

airline reservation

Messed up airline reservations can make you very frustrated – take action early!

If you have booked a reservation where the entire itinerary takes place with the same airline that you booked the flight with, then the chances are much better that things will go well. For example, if you were to book a flight on Delta that only uses Delta flights, there are fewer chances of communication issues with the ticket.

But, if you are booking an award ticket on one airline for travel on a partner or you have purchased a ticket for travel on multiple partners, it always pays to check those reservations from time to time to make sure they look the same as when you booked them.

Not Ticketed

This can happen when you book a ticket and the airline that is issuing the ticket does not receive timely confirmation from one of the airlines that you will be flying on that space is available. In such a case, the airline will not ticket the reservation because it was unable to book you with your selected flights. Do they contact you? No, certainly not all of the time!

This happened recently to me when I had booked a flight home from the US. After 24 hours with still not having received my ticket e-mail (which is what you want to look for), I called United again to ask about it. They said they were not going to ticket it because they had not been able to confirm space on the final flight – but they never told me that and they said it is my responsibility to check on it.

Solution for this: Cancel the reservation completely and book through a different ticketing agency. No problems and ticket issued in minutes. Can also book a different option on the phone but it it contains a flight with that same airline, you may have the same problems.

Flight Change/Cancellation

airline reservation

Check your airline reservation for changes or cancellations

This happens quite often as well – a flight on your reservation changes the departure/arrival time or cancels. When it comes to time changes, that typically happens when the airline adjusts their schedules for their calendar. Many times, it will not have too great an affect on you. Sometimes, it will move that close connection into an “illegal” connection where you do not have enough time to make your next flight.

Solution: Call the airline as soon as you notice this and get booked with something different for your final destination.

Cancellations can occur at any time but are mostly handled close-in because of weather or other extreme conditions. In such an instance, checking your flights can save you a lot of trouble and even a night or two in the airport when you act quickly and call as soon as you notice your flight has been cancelled. In the past for me, TripIt Pro has notified me of such a cancellation and that has happened before the airline staff even knew about it yet! One time, I received the flight cancellation notice while in the airport and immediately called the airline. I had to actually wait on the phone with the representative for a few minutes so that her system would update to reflect the cancellation and allow her to rebook me!

Cancellations can also occur (though not as frequent) if an airline is updating their schedule and finds a particular flight to not be worth it anymore. This has happened with me on Southwest. They eliminated the afternoon flight leaving only a very late flight or an early morning flight. If neither one would have worked for me, they would have refunded me and I would have had to pay more on another airline.

Solution: Call the airline as soon as you can. If at the airport, head for an airline service center counter, or preferably, head for the airline lounge to get the situation handled quicker.

Ticketing Problems With Partners

My Situation

This one happened to me most recently and took a ridiculous 2 hours of my time the day before the flight to sort out. I had booked a flight for a family member to visit us and, the day before the return, I saw that his middle flight of the reservation was missing. This has happened before with United on award reservations and many times it is there but just does not display.

The ticket in this example was for Thessaloniki – Athens – Frankfurt – Boston. The part missing was Athens – Frankfurt.

I called in and was put on hold while they called Lufthansa (the operating carrier on that flight). They came back and told me it was fine. I wasn’t too sure about that so called Lufthansa. They told me that they did not have a ticket for that flight because United had never “paid” them for that segment so after a couple of days, they cancelled that portion of the ticket!

So, now he would be stuck in Athens with his US-bound flight departing out of Frankfurt. Plus, no more space on the flight he had been booked on so they could not put him on it.

This is probably one of the more difficult problems because it is one that many people may not notice. He had received his ticket for the entire itinerary, ticket numbers and all, and there were several segments for the return flight so it may not be noticed that one city pair was missing at first. Had he flown the first segment, he would have been stuck in Athens!

Finally, I got a fantastic rep with United who forced him on a different flight operated by Swiss and that actually got him to his final destination (which was not Boston so he would have had to switch airlines in Boston). She put the ticket numbers in manually and stayed on while I checked him in – no problems! Not only was the flight option better, but it also eliminated another segment in Europe.

So, who’s fault was this? United said that Lufthansa will sometimes not take receipt of the ticket numbers from United and will end up canceling the reservation for just that segment.

Solution: Check over your reservations with United carefully if other airlines are involved and make sure all of your city pairs are present! If not, call United and have them book you on a different itinerary or get you a seat on the missing flight if it is not sold out.


airline reservation

Keeping track of your airline reservation can help you to have a smooth flight!

Booking flight reservations are certainly easier today than they used to but it does take a little preventative maintenance sometimes to make sure it all goes smoothly! Use some of these tips to make sure that your trip does not have those hiccups that could grow into major problems.

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • I often find when I book tickets way in advance, there can be aircraft changes that place me in a less desirable seat. I always have to check up on flights to make sure I still have my premium seats.

  • Even when you keep checking, shenanigans may still happen! Just came back from a great 2 week Southern Africa trip, with 8 total flights, 5 of which were award flights. All of which booked and ticketed months in advance, and seats selected and confirmed months in advance. I kept checking on the award flights just about daily, as they were using United miles and we were flying on a few Star Alliance partners. Everything looked kosher. For whatever reason the flights with SAA had them playing musical chairs with our seats the day of the flights, putting my gf and I on wait list for 2 of the 4 flights we booked with them, even though we had been checking all along. Luckily we did get our seats eventually but it wasn’t a good feeling to be worrying about seats at that time, when you thought it wad all taken care of beforehand.

    • Wow, that is not pleasant at all! That happened to our family one time because of an equipment swap and it forced us to wait onboard near our children’s assigned seats for their seat mates to come and ask them to switch with us. 8 hour flights next to a 2 year old does wonders for getting people to switch! 🙂