Airport Lounges, Personal Security & Remembering You’re In Public!

Two topics I have frequently written about on Flying With Fish are traveler security and travel etiquette … and two days ago, at 8:30am CST these two topics came crashing together at the United Airlines Red Carpet Club at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

Throughout the past few years I have detailed both how airport thieves prey on travelers, using many tactics to gather valuable information from passengers and I have also written extensively about passenger etiquette, especially when using mobile phones.

…so what did I encounter while in the lounge two days ago?

While sitting in a quiet lounge the other morning a businessman sitting two rows behind me was on the phone ordering an item with a voice volume similar to the voice one might use in a crowded stadium during a World Cup match.  What is worse than this gentleman breaking the cardinal rule of mobile phone etiquette is that he exposed himself to becoming the victim of credit card theft … or worse, identity theft.

While on the phone, ordering an item, in a crowded and quiet lounge, this traveler began announcing his American Express credit card information at full volume. This information included his credit card number, expiration date, security code, name on card, billing address and contact phone number. To make matters worse, he repeated all the information a second time.

I know many travelers are lulled into a false sense of security in a lounge, and putting aside the significant mobile phone etiquette issues, keep this in mind … airport thieves are everywhere. Many who make a living stealing from passengers have lounge access … and if you make it very easy for someone to gather all your credit card information without any effort, you may find your credit card making purchases you’re not aware of.

Even without the aid of a passenger announcing their credit card information, experienced airport thieves gather credit card information on a daily basis in lounges. A common tactic is for thieves to watch for those with credit cards out, then walk near them feigning a phone call.  The traveler with their credit card out assumes the person behind them is merely being rude, when in reality they are gathering the credit card information you have out.  There are many tricks and ways thieves gather information then use it before the victim has any idea they’ve been a victim.

Remember this and you’ll be OK, first off, obey mobile phone etiquette in the airport, no one cares about your business but you … secondly, remember this…your lack of mobile phone etiquette can open you up to being the victim of an airport thief.

Happy Flying!


  1. >>keep this in mind … airport thieves are everywhere. Many who make a living stealing from passengers have lounge access …


    I like your blog, however, I think it’s a stretch to picture airports as dens of thieves. Perhaps citing hard numbers about identity thieves arrested in airport lounges would help make such a bold statement believable.

    I totally agree that loud conversations are unpleasant when trapped in a public area. Many of us would rather stay off our mobile phones in public, but, travel schedules and time zone changes sometimes leave no other choice.

    Perhaps the answer are retro-style phone booths in airports for phone calls. I’ve seen them in a few 5 star hotel conference centers, and a few international lounges. Phone booths give the caller a private quiet environment to hear the other party, and give the public solace from becoming a forced audience.


  2. Steve

    Actually citing hard numbers of those arrested would be a challenge, in large part because much of my research has been done by actually being in contact with those who make their living as thieves in airports. I spent time a while back finding ways to be in touch with these people and when I was I asked them some very candid questions about how they actually steal from people in airports and on board aircraft.

    The answers they gave me where quite detailed, and range from how they choose their targets, how they steal at security check points and what they do in the airports. I also gained some significant insight into how they go unnoticed by airlines and airports crossing between the land-side & air-side of the airports.

    Its quite an eye opener when more than one person lays out their plan for turning an airport into their own thievery paradise.

    I’ve written about this quite a few times before in some detail.

    Happy Flying!


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