Passenger Name Record

Passenger Name Record

:Otheruses4|the travel industry term|other uses|PNR (disambiguation)

In the travel industry, a Passenger Name Record (PNR) is a record in the database of a Computer Reservation System (CRS) that contains the travel record for a passenger, or a group of passengers traveling together. The concept of a PNR was first introduced by airlines that needed to exchange reservation information in case passengers required flights of multiple airlines to reach their destination (‘’interlining’’). For this purpose IATA defined a standard for the layout and content of the PNR.

When a passenger books an itinerary, the travel agent or travel website he uses will create a PNR in the Computer Reservation System it uses. This is typically one of the large Global Distribution Systems, such as Sabre, Amadeus, Worldspan or Galileo, but if the booking is made directly with an airline the PNR can also be in the database of the airline’s CRS. This PNR is called the Master PNR for the passenger and the associated itinerary. The PNR is identified in the particular database by a Record locator.

When portions of the travel are not provided by the holder of the Master PNR, then copies of the PNR information are sent to the CRSes of the airlines that will be providing transportation. These CRSes will open copies of the original PNR in their own database to manage the portion of the itinerary for which they are responsible. Many airlines have their CRS hosted by one of the GDSes, which allows sharing of the PNR.

The record locators of the copied PNRs are communicated back to the CRS that owns the Master PNR, so all records remain tied together. This allows exchanging updates of the PNR when the status of trip changes in any of the CRSes.

Although PNRs were originally introduced for air travel, they are now also being used for bookings of hotels, car rental, railways, etc.

Colloquially, "PNR" may also refer to the unique six-character record locator used to identify the record.

Parts of a PNR

From a technical point, there are five parts of a PNR required before the booking can be completed. They are
*The name of the passenger(s).
*Contact details for the travel agent or airline office.
*Ticketing details, either a ticket number or a ticketing time limit.
*Itinerary of at least one segment, which must be the same for all passengers listed.
*Name of the person making the booking.

Once the booking has been completed to this level, the CRS system will issue a unique alpha-numeric record locator, which will remain the same regardless of any further changes made (except if a multi-person PNR is split). The airline(s) involved will also issue their own references, which will remain as a note in the booking.

While the above list is the minimum requirement, there is a considerable amount of other information required by both the airlines and the travel agent to ensure efficient travel.These include,
*Fare details, and any restrictions that may apply to the ticket.
*The form of payment used, as this will usually restrict any refund if the ticket is not used.
*Further contact details, such as phone contact numbers at their home address and intended destination.
*Age details if it is relevant to the travel, eg, unaccompanied children or elderly passengers requiring assistance.
*Frequent flyer data.
*"Special Service Requests" (SSR) such as special meal requirements, seating preferences, and other similar requests.
*"Other special instructions" (OSI), comments which are passed on to ground-staff to enable them to assist the passenger.

In more recent times, many governments now require further information to be included to assist investigators tracing criminals or terrorists. These requirements give rise to some of the privacy concerns listed below.These include,
*Passengers' full names. (Prior to 9/11, most airlines only used an initial letter and family name).
*Passport details- nationality, number, and date of expiry.
*Date and place of birth.

During exchange of a ticket, the PNR will have the following items
*ME - Exchange ticket number
*MO - Original ticket/document number
*MF - Form of payment for exchange.


The majority of airlines and travel agencies choose to host their PNR databases with a Computer reservations system (CRS) or Global Distribution System (GDS) company such as Sabre, Galileo, Worldspan and Amadeus.

An example of a Galileo CRS form is available at [ "Don’t Spy On Us" online] .

Privacy Concerns

Some privacy organisations are concerned at the amount of personal data that a PNR might contain. While the minimum data for completing a booking is quite small, a PNR will typically contain much more information of a sensitive nature.This will include the passenger’s full name, date of birth, home and work address, telephone number, e-mail address, credit card details, as well as the names and personal information of emergency contacts.

Designed to “facilitate easy global sharing of PNR data,” the CRS-GDS companies “function both as data warehouses and data aggregators, and have a relationship to travel data analogous to that of credit bureaus to financial data.”. [Electronic Privacy Information Center, Privacy & Human Rights – An International Survey of Privacy Laws and Developments 2004, 81.] A cancelled or completed trip does not erase the record since “copies of the PNRs are ‘purged’ from live to archival storage systems, and can be retained indefinitely by CRSs, airlines, and travel agencies.” [ Privacy & Human Rights, 81.] Further, CRS-GDS companies maintain web sites that allow almost unrestricted access to PNR data – often, the information is accessible by just the reservation number printed on the ticket.

Additionally, “ [t] hrough billing, meeting, and discount eligibility codes, PNRs contain detailed information on patterns of association between travelers. PNRs can contain religious meal preferences and special service requests that describe details of physical and medical conditions (e.g., “Uses wheelchair, can control bowels and bladder”) – categories of information that have special protected status in the European Union and some other countries as “sensitive” personal data.” [Privacy & Human Rights, 80.] Thus, PNRs can reveal where you’re from, where you went with whom, for how long, and at whose expense. [ See Edward Hasbrouck, “What’s in A Passenger Name Record (PNR)?,” ] Despite the sensitive character of the information they contain, PNRs are generally not recognized as deserving the same privacy protection afforded to medical and financial records. Instead, they are treated as a form of commercial transaction data. [ Privacy & Human Rights, 80.]

Regulation of PNR transfers between the USA and the European Union

Access and transfer of PNRs fall under the purview of European Data Protection Law. Under the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 1980 Privacy Guidelines, and the 1995 European Union Directive on data protection, PNRs may only be transferred to countries with comparable data protection laws. [ Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data (September 23, 1980), available at,2340,en_2649_34255_1815186_1_1_1_1,00.html] Also, law enforcement authorities are permitted to access the passenger data only on a case-by-case basis, and where there exists a particular suspicion.

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the US government determined that PNRs (both archived and real-time) were invaluable tools for investigating and thwarting terrorist attacks. Accordingly, the US government has sought the collection, transfer and retention of PNRs by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Bureau of Customs and Border Protection .

In May 2004, the US government negotiated the [ "2004 Passenger Name Record Data Transfer "] agreement (aka. US-EU PNR agreement) – a safe harbor PNR transfer agreement with the European Commission. Specifically, the European Commission deemed that the level of protection afforded to such PNR transfers would satisfy the standard of “adequacy” required by the 1995 EU Data Directive, as long as the data would be transferred and used solely for the purposes for which it was collected. These purposes being limited to “preventing and combating: terrorism and related crimes; other serious crimes, including organized crime, that are trans-national in nature; and flight from warrants or custody for those crimes.” [ Agreement between the European Community. and the U.S. on the processing and transfer of PNR data by air carriers to the U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., Bureau of Customs and Border Prot. Council Directive 2004 O.J. (L 183) 94 (EC). ] The US-EU-PNR agreement required European airlines to supply PNR data to US authorities within 15 minutes of a plane taking off. While this agreement was invalidated by the European Court of Justice in May 30, 2006 due to lack of legal authority, the European Council worked to substantively resurrect the agreement before the court-mandated deadline of September 30, 2006. [See [ "BBC News: EU court annuls data deal with US"] and [ "Judgment of the Court of Justice in Joined Cases C-317/04, C-318/04 Parliament/ Council (press release, pdf)" online] .]

In July 2007, a new, controversial , PNR agreement between the US and the EU was undersigned. [See [] .] A short time afterward, the Bush administration gave exemption for the Department of Homeland Security, for the Arrival and Departure System (ADIS) and for the Automated Target System from the 1974 Privacy Act, lifting concerns from Statewatch about the protection of EU citizens' data Statewatch, [ US changes the privacy rules to exemption access to personal data] September 2007 ] .

In February 2008, Jonathan Faull, the head of the EU's Commission of Home Affairs, complained about the US bilateral policy concerning PNR [ Brussels attacks new US security demands] , European Observer. See also [ Statewatch newsletter] February 2008] . The US had signed in February 2008 a [ memorandum of understanding] (MOU) with the Czech Republic in exchange of a VISA waiver scheme, without concerting before with Brussels [ A divided Europe wants to protect its personal data wanted by the US] , "Rue 89", 4 March 2008 en icon] . The tensions between Washington and Brussels are mainly caused by a lesser level of data protection in the US, especially since foreigners do not benefit from the US Privacy Act of 1974. Data privacy in the EU is regulated by the Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of personal data, and the US Safe Harbor arrangement made to converge with European norms is still being controversed for alleged lack of protection. Other countries approached for bilateral MOU included the United Kingdom, Estonia, Germany and Greece [ Statewatch, March 2008 ] .


External links

* [ PNR Observatory] on Statewatch

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