If you’re in an airport or airplane, you’ll usually see boarding passes on the ground or left behind in the aircraft. Some of these boarding passes could have been lost, forgotten, or people just throw them away when they no longer need them.
Usually losing your boarding pass is not a huge deal, before or after you already passed the security check, as long as you still have your identification or passport. The airlines can always issue new boarding pass or you can just use a mobile boarding pass.
So the grave consequence is not you losing your boarding pass, but when someone else finds it, and what they can do with it.
Boarding passes contain information that can compromise your identity and itinerary. Boarding passes have a record locator, typically a six-character combination of letters and/or numbers that airlines use to store your reservation. With this confirmation code you can find your own itinerary, but other people can do so as well. There’s no log in or password required. That means that anyone can do things such as changing and cancelling remaining flights, gaining personal information like telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. They can also get your frequent flyer numbers, which could be used to steal your hard earned miles and points.
FlyerTalk had a thread about this recently, where someone left a boarding pass in the seat pocket. All the necessary information is in there to make the changes mentioned above. Paris Hilton’s boarding pass also was found and went up for sale.
So what can happen exactly if someone found your boarding pass? Let’s say you threw it out in Boston after the outbound leg of a round trip from NYC to BOS? They go on their computer, enter the record locator and your name into the airline’s online homepage, and your return trip will come up and likely your contact information and frequent flyer details. Your return reservation for the return flight can be cancelled or modified online. They could even get on that flight instead of you.
It gets worse if they go after your frequent flyer account and your miles and points. They already have your account number, name and likely email. They could find more information on Google that could be enough to please agents’ security questions.
Many people nowadays probably use their smart phone when possible to display boarding passes. But if you still use a printed boarding pass, make sure to keep it secure and just destroy it when you no longer need it. The likelihood that someone will mess with your itinerary or go after you miles, is pretty small, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.