Air Travel Tips & Tricks

Why You Shouldn’t Post Your Boarding Pass Online

Let me demonstrate one clear example of why you shouldn't post a picture of your boarding pass online.

You’ve done it, I’ve definitely done it; most of us have posted pictures of our boarding pass online. Why wouldn’t you? The adventure is starting, you’re at the airport killing an hour before the flight and enjoying a drink in the departure lounge. You just want to share your excitement with your friends (or more like rub it in their faces).

If there is a clear example of why you shouldn’t post a picture of your boarding pass, look no further than the example of former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott who recently made headlines when his information held by Qantas was ‘hacked’.

What was hacked from Tony Abbott?

The short answer is nothing; the hacker did not steal or use the information in a malicious manner. The point of the ‘hacking’ was to highlight security flaws in Qantas’ system.

From a simple Instagram post showing the boarding pass & a baggage receipt in full, the hacker accessed Mr Abbott’s Qantas booking and within 45 minutes accessed HTML code which included his passport number, contact details, internal airline notes among other things.

While no major incident occurred in this example, the ease of a security breach of a prominent Australian should definitely make you want to pay attention to your own personal data.

Tony Abbott hacked: Former PM's massive boarding pass mistake
This simple Instagram photo from the former Australian Prime Minister has caused a massive security stir
(source: news.com.au – original Instagram post since deleted)

What’s the one reason not to post boarding passes online?

When making an airline reservation, you need to provide your airline or travel agent sensitive information that is required for your booking. Some information is required for government agencies for pre-screening of passengers prior to departure & arrival between countries, and other information makes your journey more comfortable.

In the wrong hands, criminals can use this basic information as a way to have you fall victim to identity theft.

Airlines and travel agents have strong data protections and laws in place keeping your personal data safe. However by posting your boarding pass online, you are virtually volunteering the data which savvy hackers use to find keys to your sensitive information. Some airlines require as little information as a booking number and a surname to view the reservation online, both details found on all boarding passes.

What information could be obtained from your boarding pass?

For a basic international airline reservation you will likely be providing most of the following, before your tickets can be issued:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Email address
  • Passport number & expiry
  • Residential address

Does the required information look familiar to you? These are questions asked in most applications to sign up for new services and ‘forgotten password’ forms. Should an unauthorised person gain access to this information, there is nothing stopping them from attempting to use your information as a basis for illegal activity under your name nearly anywhere.

For those who have travelled regularly, you may also know that airlines often collect other information to make your journey more comfortable, such as:

  • Frequent flyer number & status
  • Special dietary requirements
  • Seating requests
  • Additional baggage
  • Special baggage (e.g sports equipment or dangerous goods)

To be honest, I wouldn’t want this information in the hands of my friends in fear they will try and put me in a middle seat or change my flight, let alone someone wanting to use and experiment with this information for malicious purposes.

What’s the best way to protect information when posting on social media?

The easiest way to do this is to ensure you’re not including any material that may give away any unique booking details full stop. If you’re not sure what to post, stick to selfies!

If you are feeling a little artsy and just need to post something, just leave out the boarding pass. Perhaps take one of the departure board, or one of the aircraft parked at the gate or if you’re at Singapore’s Changi Airport, take One Flying Lap like I did!

Final words

During the times of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us aren’t flying anywhere at the moment; but when you do take to the sky again there’s simply no need to post a snap of that data rich piece of paper! If your need inspiration, Caroline at breaks.com has 10 tips for taking great travel pictures.

What do you share to social media prior to your travels? Do you share at all?
Let me know in the comments below!

Feature photo by Fidel Fernando on Unsplash

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