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Jul 14, 2018

What data is inside my boarding pass code ?

It was on a trip to Brussels, when we took a closer look at the airplane ticket in our hands: All airlines print a special code on it nowadays which makes access control far quicker. Just hold your ticket on the scanner, it will read the code and check if you are allowed to enter (the plane, the buisness lounge, the security check,…).

So we wondered: What data are actually stored in this code?

There are many typed of bar codes, and we found a guideline by the IATA (International Air Transport Association) that defined a standard for printed boarding pass bar codes. It seems the type PDF417 to be the most popular airline ticket bar code.

So we used some deconding tools to read out the content in our airline ticket. This is what we found:

M1SCHULTZ/CHRISTOPHER
E1AAAAA
HAMBRUSN
2630
142Y004C0024
359>2180
1245678

There is quite something in it: We can reveal the first and last name, the city I fly from and to, also the flight number, the flight date, my seat number, the ticket class (business or economy), and also my frequent flyer number. All that in a small code printed on my boarding pass.

Of course, we also had some doubts about data protection, when we first inspected the bar code data. In fact, no personal contact (!) data are stored here (no email address, no phone number or account data), but still personal data. The new EU data protection regulation GDPR also has to be taken into account here.

Let’s think of a free application (game/show/video) passangers could trigger — just by scanning their bar code. We could individualize the messages displayed to users.

Still, we believe that scanning your boarding pass could be implemented in far more scenarios: Airports are a special space and location anyway. People spend a lot of time waiting and shopping at airports. Marketing teams and ad experts design experiences here. Duty-free shops nowadays create brand landscapes with help of LED walls, multi-display settings, sound and interactive installations. Technology is part of these experiences.

We see a creative potential to enhance these ad experience spaces: All passengers have a boarding pass with them and would allow a very quick identification. Let’s think of a free application (game/show/video) passangers could trigger — just by scanning their bar code. We could individualize the messages displayed to users (including the weather information of their destination city, or the jet lag / time difference to the destination, etc.). This way, we would create a more personalized communication in space.

Interested in doing so? –Reach out to us!