Your boarding pass is so much more than you think.
It’s not just the squeaky thing that gets you on the plane, it’s the key to earning miles for future trips and the gatekeeper of weird personal information about you. Yes, some of which can be quite personal.
Any walk through the airport is always a visual “don’t do” guide to boarding passes, so here are a few tips to help you rack up the miles and more, without the jarring horror that can follow.
Keep your pass until your miles have expired
For several reasons which we’ll discuss below, you’ll eventually want to dispose of your boarding pass safely. But before you do this, make sure your miles are listed.
In most cases, frequent flyer miles are automatically added within days of your flight, but there are endless instances where a system error occurs and it never shows up. Or, in even more cases, they appear incorrectly.
When this happens, some airlines require a copy of a physical boarding pass before coughing up your points and elite status credit. It’s not fair, but it’s a good reason to hold onto your boarding pass until the miles are officially credited to your account.
Be careful when taking pictures
If you’ve seen headlines over the years telling you that people can steal your personal information from your boarding pass, then that’s totally true.
Not only that, a mean person could legitimately cancel your trip and leave you stranded in a foreign land, all from one revealing boarding pass photo. So yes, let that modest bragging rights wait until the tour or journey is complete.
The barcodes on your boarding pass will reveal your name, booking confirmation code and frequent flyer details, so be sure to hide barcodes and other sensitive information. Here’s a full introduction to that.
Check the back for discounts
Emirates has been a great example of astonishing people with discounts on boarding passes. Some airlines use boarding pass promos to convert the travel cards into a membership card that offers travelers up to 50% off at shops, restaurants and more.
Airlines are always looking for new ways to make money, and the backs of many boarding passes have become a hallowed advertising ground. Whether it’s a discount on hotels at your destination or a coupon to save luggage, it’s worth finding out what’s on the back of your boarding pass.
Some airlines offer free transit hotels to passengers who show their boarding pass during a long overnight stay.
Actually keep the luggage sticker
In some countries, luggage areas are safe and serious areas. If you want to leave with your bag, you must show your luggage ticket and boarding pass.
That, and if your bag doesn’t show up, you’ll want the sticker with the tracking information to be with the airline.
People love to take that flimsy sticker off their boarding pass and when you re-fasten your bags and exit the airport that’s totally okay – but if you do that before then you’ll seriously wish you didn’t.
Nerd away to kill time
Did you know that the ‘seq’ number on your boarding pass represents the order in which you checked in? Or that if you find an SSSS on your boarding pass after checking in, you will be given a full watch?
Sequence: 001 would mean you were the first person to check in for the flight. You probably know where you are, but there are little things like “J” means business class while “Y” means economy.
Anything to keep time ticking, right? Oh, and note your boarding group number if you want to make friends.
Shred it Don’t spread it
When you have taken advantage of discounts, earned your miles and collected all your luggage, the boarding pass has fulfilled all its official functions.
At this point, you can either save it to a personal folder or do something artsy like varnishing all of yours on a cool table. If you don’t want to be so sentimental or travel-crazy, the best thing to do is destroy your boarding pass. Don’t just throw it away.