Your Flight Reservation Number Can Unlock a Wealth of Information to the Wrong People - Running with Miles
The Basics Travel Guide

Your Flight Reservation Number Can Unlock a Wealth of Information to the Wrong People

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Written by Charlie

That litte 6 character flight reservation number could unlock a whole lot of valuable information in the hands of the wrong people. Here are some tips to keep that information safely.

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In the age of social sharing of travel, there is one little thing that you should never share on social media – or anywhere else. While that somewhat random 6 character code that you use to check-in may seem innocuous, it could unlock a lot of valuable information if it is in the wrong hands. In fact, as was recently discovered, it could even be available without you sharing it.

Your Flight Reservation Number Can Unlock a Wealth of Information to the Wrong People

Right after you book your flight, your airline issues you a 6 digit code that serves as your reservation number/locator. The official name is the Passenger Name Record, or PNR, and is used to identify your reservation in the massive engine that airlines around the world use.

While it may not seem like much of a big deal, this 6 character code can be used to unlock a lot of your travel information when the wrong people get a hold of it. If you are sharing your boarding pass online, that contains all the information that people need to do simple things like cancel or change your reservation to things like access your contact information and even frequent flyer accounts.

Recently Fixed Flaw Was Very Dangerous

There was a recent flaw that had been discovered (and subsequently fixed by Amadeus) that one man was able to use to generate random codes and access those travelers accounts. While fixed, security experts agree that this can still be a point of vulnerability due to the lack of upgrades that have been made to the Amadeus system over the years.

Even with that flaw fixed, there is still the danger of your reservation being messed with or for people being able to follow your travels at the airport and even from the airport. Here are some basic steps you can take to protect your travels as much as possible.

No Photos!

flight reservation number social media

Find some creative way to show your travel documents without giving away the important stuff!

As enticing as it may be to post that first class ticket to Instagram, the ticket could unlock some nasty surprises to you if your reservation number is displayed. If you must do it, at least block that important information.

Don’t Put Your Ticket in Your Seat Back (or anywhere else!)

passenger reservation number danger

I cannot tell you how many people’s reservations I would have had access to over the years because they just left their ticket in the seat back (also a sign of how little some things are cleaned in between flights!). Make sure you don’t let your ticket stub stay behind when you leave the plane.

Keep this in mind as well – it is pretty easy for your seat mate to learn a lot about you during basic conversation and that, combined with your ticket stub, could let that person gain access to your airline accounts.

While we are at it, just don’t leave your ticket anywhere! Rip it up and dispose of it the right way.

Baggage Tags Can Be Bad, Too!

passenger record locator

Courtesy: AlexStef at English Wikipedia

Those tags the airlines put on your checked bags? Yeah, those have your reservation locator on them also. This means you are better off not throwing those tags in the garbage bins in airports and also don’t leave them in your hotel wastebasket! Chances are good no one is going to go dumpster diving for your numbers but it is better to be safe than distressed if someone messes with your trip.

Takeaway

Until airlines build a new reservation system with stronger security, we are stuck with a system that was made long before hackers became as big as they are today. This means that we will likely continue to have some security vulnerabilities pop up and, in some cases, have our accounts accessed by people that could gain access to some very valuable information (think your birthdate, address, security words, frequent flyer miles, and more).

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

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