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These Secret Codes on Your Boarding Pass Reveal How You'll Be Treated on a Flight

Picture of Alice Johnston
Food Editor
Updated: 20 March 2018
Ever wondered how flight attendants know who to upgrade?

As if by magic, security staff and airline operatives know who to give special treatment to and who to ignore without even speaking a word to you first.

The secret lies in your boarding pass.

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airplane-3212513_640

We can reveal that there are secret codes inscribed there which predict the kind of treatment you’ll get when you fly.

They help to determine everything from the kind of food you’ll be served, whether you’ll get an extra bag search at security and where you’ll sit on the plane.

Different airlines have different codes for each message, so the information we have won’t apply to every boarding pass.

But British Airways revealed to The Sun the codes that they use and what messages on their boarding passes mean.

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A stock image of a boarding pass | © orelphoto

BA 1234 – the flight number (seen as OKL018 on the above photo).

Sold as AY1234 – the codeshare flight number, i.e. this was sold as another airline’s flight but was sold as a BA flight. This would be under the flight number on the above boarding pass.

Gate Z12 – the boarding gate number (gate 47 on the above photo).

Board at time – the time that the customer needs to be at the departure gate (boarding time on the above photo). British Airways said: ‘We know how important punctuality is to our customers, and so now we’re telling them the time they need to be at the gate to ensure we can board our flights quickly and efficiently and depart them punctually. Previously customers have seen “Gate closes at” – now it’s “Board at”, which encourages customers to get to the gate in good time.’

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What does your boarding pass say? | © quistian

Group 2 – the number of the boarding group. This would be to the right of boarding time on the above pass. Two signifies that the boarding pass holder is a Silver BA Executive Member. BA said: ‘We have just introduced a new boarding procedure to speed up the boarding process and make it simpler for customers to understand. This method has been used by airlines around the world for a number of years, including by our partners American Airlines, Iberia and Qatar.’

ABC1 – the customer’s booking reference number. This would be to the left of the passenger name on the far right on the above pass.

SEQ 500 – the number you are to check in for the flight. In this case, you would have been passenger number 500 to check in. This would be next to the passenger name on the far right of the above boarding pass.

CHML – the boarding pass holder has requested a child’s meal. There are 13 different versions of this code, one for each of the 13 special meals BA offers, including kosher, muslim, vegetarian, diabetic and gluten intolerant. This would be under the flight location on the far right of the above pass.

WCHR – the person is a wheelchair user. This would be under the flight location on the far right of the above pass.

BASILVxxxxxx – the person’s British Airways Executive Club member. This is the four letters and long number at the far right on the bottom of the above pass.

125XXXX – the actual ticket number. All British Airways flights begin with 125. This would be the long number at the far right on the bottom of the above pass.

SSSS – this means ‘Secondary Security Screen Selection’, and only applies if you’re travelling to the US. It means that the customer has been selected for extra screening at security, which generally means that security officers will pat you down, swab you for explosive residue and open all of your bags. If this were on the above pass, this would be on the bottom left underneath the QR code.