Should I Stop Taking Pictures of My Boarding Pass?

Your ticket to ride holds a lot more information than your destination

Woman holding smartphone and passport at airport

Yiu Yu Hoi / Getty Images

For many travelers, pictures are a primary way to share a traveling experience with friends and loved ones at home. From the airport experience to first-class accommodations, travelers love to snap photos as a keepsake from their adventures.

However, a simple photograph can turn a traveler's dream vacation into a nightmare very quickly. From travelers being escorted off aircraft for snapping a picture at the wrong time to the perfect selfie turning deadly, posting a photo doesn't always make sense. This extends even to the most basic of traveling items: a boarding pass.

Once considered photographic proof travelers are heading to a destination, modern technology makes an airline ticket more vulnerable than ever. Be sure to think twice before taking a picture of a boarding pass to your social media profiles.

What Information Is Available From a Picture of Boarding Pass?

Throughout history, boarding passes have held a lot of information about a passenger. This information includes their full name, airline, booking class, and other information pertaining to the travel plans. Today's boarding pass contains all of that information - and much more.

Modern boarding passes feature not only the traveler's name and airline, but also includes the traveler's passenger name record, or PNR for short. This record is often six characters, a combination of both letters and numbers, and is the unique identifying number for the traveler and their booked itinerary. With a combination of the traveler's name and PNR, someone viewing the boarding pass could potentially access every detail of the traveler's plans electronically - and ultimately create chaos from the ground.

How the Information Can Be Used Against You

When a boarding pass is carelessly discarded, the information available upon it can be immediately used against the traveler. In addition to changing or cancelling flights, a potential identity thief can learn a lot about their potential mark from a boarding pass, including how long they will be away and their frequent flyer information. This could set up a traveler for theft or robbery while in a foreign country.

Furthermore, an identity thief with a boarding pass barcode scanner application can learn a lot of intimate details about a traveler very quickly. Hidden on the boarding pass is a wealth of information about a traveler, which may include (but may not be limited to) passport numbers, trusted traveler numbers, and the traveler's date of birth. With this information in hand, an identity thief could immediately turn around and begin using the traveler's persona to open fraudulent accounts, all while the unsuspecting victim is out of touch.

Posting a Picture of a Boarding Pass Online

Much like those distasteful selfies, a picture of a boarding pass should never go online. While keeping a printed copy of a boarding pass and itinerary should be part of an overall travel contingency kit, they should definitely be properly discarded once a trip is complete.

Because of the amount of personal data enclosed on a boarding pass, many security experts recommend destroying a boarding pass in a shredder. By shredding the boarding pass, travelers are making sure the valuable barcode (as well as any other information) does not end up in the wrong hands.

While a boarding pass can unlock countless new worlds, it can also create trouble and heartache for travelers. By understanding how valuable these items are, and how easily they can be abused, travelers can make sure they make the best decisions about their personal information as they travel. 

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