We’ve all heard the stories of 2-year-olds and little old ladies being hassled at airport security because they share a name with someone on the no-fly list. As of today, the TSA has taken steps toward greater security (and, hopefully, the freedom of flying toddlers everywhere) with the full institution of its new Secure Flight program.
If you’ve made a flight reservation in the last year or so, you’ve probably been prompted to provide your full name, birth date and gender at some point during the booking process. This isn’t your airline being nosy — it’s part of the phasing-in process for Secure Flight. All airlines, booking sites and travel agents must have this information on file in order to send it to the TSA before you fly; the TSA will then use it to check your identity against the government’s official no-fly list. If your identity is cleared, you’ll be issued a boarding pass. If not, you will be subject to further screening at the airport before you can fly.
What does all this mean for you? You must be sure that your airline, travel agent or booking site has the information above on file for you before your trip. If you’ve had issues with the no-fly list in the past, you can also request and supply a “redress number” from the TSA when booking.
The TSA emphasizes that the name on your reservation must match the name on the government-issued ID you plan to use — so if your driver’s license lists you as Margaret, forget about booking a flight as “Maggie.” If you’ve just gotten married or divorced but haven’t changed the name on your passport, book your flight under the last name that matches your ID. (The TSA notes that small differences, such as a middle initial versus a middle name, shouldn’t be enough to keep you from flying.)
It’s important to be aware that the Secure Flight screening process takes place before you ever arrive at the airport, and does not replace the in-person screening of your boarding pass and ID at the security checkpoint.
To learn more about how your next flight could be affected, check out TSA’s Secure Flight Program: What It Means for You.
–written by Sarah Schlichter