The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is enhancing the passenger watch lists program that matches reservation data with individuals that may pose a known or suspected threat to aviation, while at the same time helping to prevent the misidentification of travelers who have names similar to individuals on TSA’s watch lists. The name of the program is Secure Flight. Secure Flight will require that reservations be made using your legal first and last name and must match the name on your valid government issued photo ID. The enforcement of this rule is being phased-in while all the differing reservations systems are enhanced to comply with the Secure Flight data reporting process. While this sounds fairly simple and straightforward, the Secure Flight name requirement will require some adjustments. The name on your driver’s license should match the name on your passport so that you can use either ID and avoid confusion. You may be asked to provide additional information such as date of birth and gender to better differentiate you from individuals on the government lists. What about your frequent flier programs? Will you still get flight credit if the name on your account is different from your government ID?
Secure Flight is a behind the scenes screening process used to perform the watch list matching before a boarding pass is ever issued, so small differences in the way your name appears should not impact your check-in or security screening experience. However, if you currently travel using a nickname like Pat for Patrick or Deb for Deborah you will need to contact your frequent flier program to change your name on the account to your full name as it appears on your passport or Driver’s License to ensure your account is credited with award miles. Additionally, some reservation systems truncate initials or suffixes into last names and some do not; for example John A. Traveler becomes Traveler/JohnA. TSA and airlines are working to compare system differences and the affects these differences will have in complying with the Secure Flight screening process. While all this is being sorted out, it is probably a good idea to start thinking about how the new Secure Flight name ID program might affect you and begin making changes now.