When I was in Europe a few years ago, before I got into this whole points thing, I distinctly remember taking an Air Europa flight and sitting in the very last row. Since I had booked through Orbitz, I was only able to select seats on the American carriers, so I got stuck with an assigned seat. As you can see, after I booked my in-laws trip to Asia, they too were left hung out to dry seat-wise (two Lufthansa and four Thai Airways flights). I’ve since learned how to get seat assignments on most foreign carriers – and what I’m sharing about it should work on travel you paid for, too!
The key point to understand is that in order to get seat assignments on an airline, you need your PNR for THAT airline. A PNR is a “Personal Name Record”, which generally is a six digit confirmation code – it connects you to the reservation. One reservation could generate several PNRs – one for each airline you are traveling on (since they need to keep track of their own airplanes). Since I booked the tickets on United’s website, I was able to select seats for the United flights. But United can’t select seats for Thai Airways or vice versa – you need to go to the actual airline you are flying on to get your seats. The trick is figuring out the PNRs on your other flights.
Selecting Seats on Lufthansa
In this case, finding the Lufthansa PNR was easy. At the top of the reservation, there was a link saying “additional confirmation numbers”. All I had to do was click it, and voila, the Lufthansa PNR was there.
After that, selecting seats was simple. I went to Lufthansa’s website. There, you can login and view your reservation using a last name and your confirmation code, which is the same as your PNR. After that, it’s a simple matter of selecting seats like you would on any airline’s website! Getting my in-laws seats on Lufthansa was just a matter of a couple of clicks.
Selecting Seats on Thai Airways
Getting my in-laws seats on Thai Airways proved to be a bit more difficult. If you can’t find a partner airline’s PNR online, you have to do something I really dislike – call. I just called 1-800-UNITED-1 (the regular line), hit 0 a bunch of times to get to an operator, and then gave them my UNITED confirmation code. Once the agent pulled up my reservation, I asked her if I could have my Thai Airways PNR. She knew exactly what I was looking for, gave it to me, and I hung up. I called pretty late at night so I actually think I talked to someone in India.
Thai Airways for some reason wasn’t allowing me to choose seats online. Thus, I had to CALL Thai Airways too. I found their number (1-800-426-5204), called, and within minutes had chosen seats on every flight except for CNX-BKK. It’s annoying to have to call, but it’s better than nothing! This way my in-laws don’t have to worry about getting stuck in the back. As a bonus, foreign carriers don’t limit seat selection as much as the US legacy carriers do these days, so I was able to secure window seats further up in the plane.
Hopefully this post has illustrated how through a little bit of work you can make your travel much more convenient and comfortable. It’s awful to worry about where you are going to sit. Even though seat selection doesn’t 100% guarantee you your seat, it’s pretty close to that. A little bit of legwork and a couple of phone calls could mean the difference between sitting in an aisle or in the middle of a 5-seat row. Just remember – get the PNR for the airline that you will be FLYING on.