We’ve been told ― time and time again ― that we should never post a photo of our boarding pass online when we travel. But sometimes lessons are best learned from experience, and this one is pretty darn convincing.
Recently, travel blogger Steve Hui noticed his Facebook friend posted a photo of their boarding pass before a trip. He decided to run an experiment to see how much information he could glean from the boarding pass photo, which included the traveler’s name and booking reference number from Delta.
Turns out just a few visible digits can ruin a trip.
After plugging his friend’s booking number into Delta’s website, Hui was able to see information for all four flights on their reservation: The seat numbers, frequent flyer details, fare paid and last four digits of her credit card number were all there. If he’d wanted to, Hui wrote on news.com.au, he could’ve changed the traveler’s seats, swapped meals, cancelled legs of their trip or ended the trip altogether.
Hui admits his discoveries were just the beginning of what a hacker could find with a flyer’s boarding pass info.
“Technically, from there you could easily... hack into someone’s frequent flyer account,” Hui told HuffPost. And “from there, there is full trip history, number of points, and perhaps you can redeem things like flights and gift vouchers.”
And boarding pass barcodes aren’t safe, either.
Intrigued? Let’s take things one step further. Say you’re a savvy traveler, and you post a photo of your boarding pass but cover up vital details like your name and booking number. This is just as dangerous: Your barcode is basically just your ticket in smaller form, according to Bob Davidson, the head of aviation facilitation at the International Air Transport Association.
“Information encoded into the... bar code on each boarding pass includes largely the same information that is clearly printed on the document: name, flight numbers, boarding and destination cities, times, airport, gate, seat, frequent traveler account number,” Davidson told HuffPost.
Barcode-reading websites can quickly glean this information from a simple image, lifted from your cheery Instagram pic.
In short, the best photo is no photo at all.
You may think you’re following safe practices by covering up the name or numbers on your boarding pass. But really, the best practice is to not post a photo of your boarding pass at all. Doing so is like telling the entire world you’re out of town and off your guard.
“The greatest risk in posting a boarding pass on social media is that it is a clear indication that the person will not be home at a specific time,” Davidson said. “That... is like leaving the front door not only unlocked, but thrown wide open.”
Skip straight to posting landscape photos after you’re back, instead.