Flying On Airline Ticket In Someone Else’s Name?

Over the weekend I attended Frequent Traveler University, and along with Gary hosted two “Advanced Q&A” sessions. We took questions both “live” and from a list of questions people had submitted beforehand. We didn’t get through all of them, so I figured I’d answer a few of the ones submitted beforehand here.

Here’s one of the questions:

Since your ID is only checked at the TSA checkpoint, what’s to stop me from having someone else do a one-way mileage run for me by flying under themselves for the first segment and then fly the rest of the segments as me once they’re past security?

Can you try to fly on a ticket in someone else’s name?

So I’m not sure if I’m understanding the above correctly, but you can certainly try to make it even easier than that. Just book the other person a refundable ticket to get through security, cancel it, and then they can board as you. That being said, I don’t think you should try this.

What are the risks of flying on someone else’s ticket?

Here are the potential downsides to flying on a ticket in someone else’s name:

  • It’s a violation of the contract of carriage for every airline, so in the event you get caught you’ll be in trouble.
  • Sometimes the TSA does ID checks at the gate, so if they do that on one of these flights you’re hosed.
  • In the event of irregular operations, if you get rebooked and your ticket is reissued, in many cases you’ll need to present ID to get your new boarding passes. That could get tricky if someone else is flying under your name.
  • Is it really an efficient mileage run if they’re just flying as you one-way, and then they have to fly back on their own ticket?

So it’s possible, it certainly could work, but it’s also very risky and not something I’d recommend doing.

I’m curious, has anyone ever tried this, and if so, how did it go?

Comments

  1. While this is really unwise in the US, it could get much worse in other places.

    Never, ever try that in other countries, especially those that have tight airport security, like India or Israel. That could get you in some real serious trouble. Also, they check your passport at the gate nearly always, so chances of getting caught are close yo 100%.

  2. Not a good idea. Its not worth all that risk. I will never ever do that for anyone or myself

  3. Yes, it’s very easy. Common usage is two friends have advance purchase tickets to, let’s say, Las Vegas. Last minute, the friend can’t go, so another friend goes instead (free air). Friend buys refundable ticket in his own name and cancels on his cell only once onboard using the friend’s boarding pass. No risk.

  4. Easy in the UK, if on domestic travel and not checking a bag: no ID checks at any stage.

  5. I have done this a few times in the USA not for mileage run purposes but as listen said to to take the place of somebody who was unable to travel.

  6. I agree – I don’t see the problem, very low risk and with change fees what they are… Not that I have ever done it.

  7. This would be easy to do in Australia on domestic flights too. No ID check at any point from check-in to boarding on the 3 carriers I used. I enjoyed the civilized atmosphere of security – no fuss over liquids and shoes and none of this “state your name” rubbish. International is a different story.

  8. In Brazil you have to show your ID upon boarding, though I don’t think they compare your face to the picture on the ID.

  9. Not to mention that if there is some sort of disaster, the named passenger will be on the manifest, which will cause a) worry for the ticket-holder’s family, and b) the person flying will have mysteriously disappeared.

    (See stolen passport conundrum from MH370)

  10. Don’t even need to go through all that trouble. You can fly without an ID within the States, you’ll just go through more extensive check at security.

  11. Anyone who would try this is a moron. Ridiculously stupid. While you may not get caught, the consequences are potentially severe.

  12. Done it, and there’s really nothing gutsy, or stupid about it. This restriction isn’t based on security whatsoever, it’s based on money/contract. And while we’re on the topic eople need to grow some cajones, and exercise some civil disobedience. I’m not saying create cause for alarm, or nudity at an airport, but puh-lease, there’s nothing wrong about flying on another’s name except unless you believe every coercive contract you enter into should be upheld. Not even lawyers believe that.

  13. Lucky, this was actually very common in the early days of frequent flyer programs (’80’s and early ’90’s). Then things got tighter, especially after the TWA disaster in New York in the mid ’90’s, and as the airlines realized the number of people who were violating their Contract of Carriage to get the bennies.

  14. “It’s a violation of the contract of carriage for every airline, so in the event you get caught you’ll be in trouble.”

    Oooh, best be careful – 40 lashes, the rack, cat-o-nine-tails – these are airlines we’re talking about after all.

    It’s even simpler than suggested. Check-in online, and capture the boarding pass to an image. Print the original to get on the plane; edit and print a second copy after putting in the replacement traveler’s name to pass through TSA with their own ID. Done!

  15. You mean there’s actually even a small chance I could be reported as dying and not have died? Gee, that’s a pretty good return on your life insurance.
    I think I’d rather just pay, however. I don’t need the FBI at my door, AGAIN.

  16. One of my kids went to Grandma’s house flying as me way before 9/11 changed our world. It was all about the frequent flyer miles……..Today I think doing this risks serious blowback from the airline…….perhaps a lifetime ban I would think might be considered and TSA would really mess up your day and I am CERTAIN you would face Federal charges and be required to show up in a Federal court in the city in question…..and if you altered the boarding pass you would face another set of fraud charges opening the door to being on the no-fly list………..of all the manufactured miles ideas this has to rank as the most idiotic………..nothing personal Vegas partiers…………surely Lucky has given you better “great” ideas on how to earn more miles……..

  17. @Scott — terrible idea. Most TSA now SCAN the boarding pass, and a name pops up. Quite some pickle you’d be in when your ID says “John Doe” and the BP pops up “Jim Smith.”

    I have no doubt that altering a boarding pass is some sort of federal offense. Good luck trying to talk your way out of that one.

  18. @AJK – Obviously don’t want to try TSA PRE or a smartphone app with this, but many (most?) smaller airports look at your ID under UV light and check the boarding pass details manually. A little research would be a good idea. This loophole has existed since 9/11. It’s nice to hear TSA is FINALLY starting to close it.

  19. @Scott, don’t get me wrong. I have many friends who have done this exact same thing over the years. But as TSA has begun scanning the BP (as opposed to eye-balling it), this becomes much harder. To be fair, I don’t fly to many small airports, so it’s possible they still check it manually, but nearly every large airport I’ve been to in the last year or so uses scanners.

  20. Altering BP is a bad idea. Given the state of paranoia, I’d be very reluctant to travel under some other person’s name even domestically.

  21. I’ll admit to doing this (and recently!)

    I was traveling with a group of friends SJU-EWR-BDL (anybody remember the insane BDL-EWR-SJU-EWR-BDL fare for like $114 last year?). I was treating BDL as a hidden city (tisk tisk!) and was hopping off the flight at EWR. My buddy was continuing onto BDL, so I asked him to just scan my BP at the gate when he boarded the EWR-BDL flight (so I could get the miles).

    Sure there was a bit of risk, but I told him to just say I had an emergency and had to leave the airport, and he was holding both of our boarding passes and got them mixed up.

    I wouldn’t try getting past the TSA with someone else’s BP though.

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