Friday, May 15, 2009

What's in a Name?

Starting May 15, when passengers purchase airline tickets, they will be required to provide their name as it appears on the government-issued ID that they plan to use when traveling. This is the first phase of a new TSA program called “Secure Flight.”

So…if you plan to present a driver’s license , purchase tickets using your name as it appears on your driver’s license. If you plan to present a passport, purchase tickets using the name that appears on your passport. (Here is a list of acceptable forms of identification.)

But rest assured, the system will be pretty flexible. For the near future, small differences between ID and reservation information, such as the use of a middle initial instead of a full middle name or no middle name/initial at all, should not cause a problem for the passenger.

Secure Flight is a multi-phase program developed by DHS that matches passenger information against federal government watch lists for domestic and international flights. Before Secure Flight, airlines themselves were responsible for matching passenger information to the federal watch list. As Secure Flight is implemented, TSA will begin to assume responsibility for the security program.

So what exactly do we mean by “watch list matching”? When you purchase an airline ticket your name will be compared to the “No Fly” and “Selectee” lists, which are distilled from the FBI’s terrorist watch list.

Individuals confirmed to be on the Selectee list, will automatically be subject to secondary screening, but could still be allowed to fly. If an individual is confirmed to be on the “No Fly” list, he or she won’t be able to fly within, into, or over the United States. The number of people that appear on these lists is extremely small, so chances are you won’t run into issues at security checkpoints because your name is on the watch list.

After August 15, domestic airlines will be required to collect (and passengers will be required to provide) date of birth and gender in addition to name (as it appears on the government ID). By providing these pieces of information under the new Secure Flight program, cases of mistaken identity will be virtually eliminated. For passengers who have had problems in the past, this means that you’ll be able to print your boarding pass at home before arriving at the airport. It also means that your 6-year-old won’t be misidentified as someone on the Selectee or No Fly lists.

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