The creepiness of the internet knows no bounds…

It’s quite hard to resist the travel “humble brag”. This age old passage of time involves a quick snap of a boarding pass folded into a passport, with the option of a smiling grin behind it. In the world of Instagram and instant gratification, it’s a pastime too tempting to give up, but depending on who’s looking at it – taking a picture of your boarding pass can ruin your trip. How badly? How about cancelled entirely, with all of your miles stolen!

Fun Facts

Before we go all morbid and creepy on you, here are a few fun things you may not know about your boarding pass, like.

  • SEQ: is the order in which you checked in. SEQ:001 means you were first, whereas SEQ:200 means you were the 200th person. There’s not much benefit, but fun to know.
  • Class J means business, Y means economy, F means First and P means premium. Even if your boarding pass doesn’t say economy, business or whatever, it still secretly does.
  • SSSS means you’ll have a slightly longer journey ahead. SSSS on a boarding pass means you’ve been selected for additional screening, sorry.
  • Group is your boarding group, and the order in which you should board. That means if you’re in group 12, there’s absolutely no reason for you to stand near the door during group 1 boarding. Just a friendly reminder…

Stop Taking Pictures

Taking pictures of your boarding pass can have serious trip repercussions, including losing your trip entirely. Unfortunately, that’s not a joke. Your boarding pass contains sensitive information from almost every single angle, and while there are some obvious ones like your record locator, like “G5X7BA”, there are less obvious ones too. Barcodes are what get you on the plane, but they are also exactly what any hacker needs to ruin your trip. With a picture of a barcode, a hacker can…

  • Cancel your trip.
  • Change your trip, including seats or flights.
  • Get access to your reservation and other personal info.
  • Potentially use your frequent flyer account.
  • Know all your flight details.

It’s Too Easy

Your frequent flyer number is no different to your credit card number – it’s just a different currency. Before you say, well who would care to do something, you should understand just how easy it is to do. Years back security expert Krebs on Security, offered a tutorial. Basically, take a picture of any boarding pass in your house, focus on the barcode and then go to this website. The problem: it works just as well taking a screenshot of someone else’s boarding pass from social media.

Boarding Pass Data

You’ll upload your picture, and the site will quickly tell you every detail like: the record locator, name on reservation, flight number, date, and more. With just two pieces of info like last name and record locator, anyone could easily login online and cancel or change the reservation. Do yourself a quick favor and do it yourself, just to see how easy it is. You’ll never take a picture of your boarding pass, or at least not the barcode again!

If You Insist

If you really do insist upon taking the obligatory boarding pass in passport photo, preferably with a martini or glass of champagne behind it, be sure to…

  • Leave out at least most of the barcode.
  • Leave out the record locator, the code like 5GSTP6.
  • Leave out part of your name, so it’s harder to access.
  • Consider waiting until after the flight.

Here’s a perfect not so humble brag photo…

You’re welcome.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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7 Comments

  1. You post is right on. Additionally, you shouldn’t throw your boarding pass in the trash after a flight either. For exactly the same reasons, your bar code can expose enough details about you and your frequent flyer account to get hacked. I shred my passes after my miles post.

  2. Same caution should be given to Luggage Tags. I never throw them out (especially not in the hotel room trash can). They have barcodes, too.

  3. I find it easier to take a pic of the boarding pass and delet as soon as I board. There is nothing more fustratingvthrn to be behind someone that can’t access their boarding pass. Or has no juice left on their phone. Or. When you do a curb luggage ch in. Get the paper boarding pass there. Then tear up the paper pass.

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