The word “hacker” has long been used by many people in our hobby to describe the ways that award systems are used to advantage the end-user, the traveler. Some people call themselves “travel hackers” or “award hackers” or even hackers of airfare or airlines.
What Is A “Hacker?”
The problem is the actual definition of the word really does not accurately describe what we do as the description of the word speaks of these people: a person who is inexperienced or unskilled at a particular activity, an expert at programming and solving problems with a computer, or person who illegally gains access to and sometimes tampers with information in a computer system.
So while we all know what someone is talking about when they say they are a “travel hacker” I do not think anyone would want to use that word in the definition of one who is inexperienced or unskilled. Also, we do not illegally gain access to airline/travel/hotel computers for any reason.
FBI Takes The Hacker Part Seriously
The word “hacker” has popped up in the media lately in conjunction with airlines and travel as airlines are becoming more aware and cautious of the possibilities that may exist for true hackers to gain access to control systems using an airplane’s WiFi. In fact, the FBI has issued an official alert to be on the lookout for passengers that are trying to hack into the aircraft’s systems.
This follows a tweet issued by a co-founder of a security company while in flight. The tweet mentioned that he had gained access to the control systems and joked about deploying oxygen masks. He was detained by the FBI upon landing and had his computer equipment confiscated (and still not returned as of yet as the FBI investigates). In addition, he has been banned from flying aboard United Airlines (according to the report by the BBC).
While people may think it sounds cool to call themselves a travel hacker, it may be wise to not call yourself that while onboard an aircraft – you never know what kind of chain reaction such a name can start!