Lonely Planet Writer

Here's why you should never post an image of your boarding pass online

You may love to post on social media to let others know you’re just about to jet off on holidays, but an Australian travel expert has warned against the practice of putting images of boarding passes online. You might be dying for others to know you’re just about to jet off to somewhere very exotic or are doing it in style in business class, but the boarding card, or even the barcode printed on it, contains highly confidential information that could be used for identity theft purposes.

Steve Hui, CEO of IFlyFlat ,has warned people about the risks of posting boarding card images online. Image: IFlyFlat
Steve Hui, CEO of IFlyFlat, has warned people about the risks of posting boarding card images online. Image: IFlyFlat

According to Steve Hui, CEO of IFlyFlat, others could also use this information to cause you financial loss, as the information printed on the boarding pass could enable them to modify or cancel your booking. To support his assertion and test how vulnerable the system is, Steve took an image of a random Delta Airlines boarding card that an unnamed passenger had posted online. The e-ticket number, booking reference, frequent flyer number and even how many bags were checked in were printed on the ticket, so he went to the “Manage My Booking” section on the airline’s website, armed with this information.

airport
Smartphone boarding passes have become common over the past few years Image by Thomas van de Weerd / CC BY 2.0

He was able to log into the booking and see all the passenger’s details and entire itinerary. Details accessed also included their seat numbers, frequent flyer details, ticket numbers, fare paid and the last four digits of the credit card used. Steve claimed that people with malicious intent could use that information to potentially cancel or change flights, or cause other issues.

Steve Hui used a Delta Airlines ticket to prove his point about boarding cards containing valuable personal information.
Steve Hui used a Delta Airlines ticket to prove his point about boarding cards containing valuable personal information.Image by Prayitno / CC BY 2.0

In another example, a passenger had posted an image of her boarding card online, in which was hidden her personal details. The barcode was still visible, and Steve explained that anyone with access to a barcode reading device could use it to access all the information about the booking. He was able to retrieve all of the passenger’s details without seeing the rest of the boarding card.

Young backpacker couple at an airport checking their boarding passes. Image: Getty Images
Young backpacker couple at an airport checking their boarding passes. Image: Getty Images

The travel expert says that passengers wanting to show off business or first class tickets on social media need to ensure that barcodes and vital information are blurred out. It might be safer, he suggests, to share pictures of your celebratory drinks in the lounge instead.