Secure Flight, the US Transportation Security Administration’s long awaited passenger vetting program, began today, May 15th.Â The TSA now asks that passengers use their full name, as it appears on their passport, when booking airline tickets.Â At this point small discrepancies such as the use of a middle initial instead of a full middle name or no middle name/initial at all, should not be an issue for passengers. Over time, however, consistency will become mandatory – the names in an airline reservation will need to match the name on the passport exactly, includingÂ full middle names.
By August 15th, all passengers will be required to provide their date of birth and gender when they make airline reservations.Â Â Â And eventually, passengers will be required to submit their passport numbers at least 72 hours prior to departure.
The goal of the program is to determine if the passenger is a match to the No Fly or Selectee lists. By providing the additional data elements of gender and date of birth, Secure Flight will more effectively help prevent misidentification of passengers who have similar names to individuals on the watch list and better identify individuals that may pose a known or suspected threat to aviation.
So what does this all really mean to the Latin America-bound traveler?Â For now, not much.Â Your name on your reservation must already match the name on your passport.Â However, in the near future, it means that you will need to have the full names (including middle names) and dates of birth of all travelers before you can make reservations.
It also means that the name on your frequent flier accounts will need to match your passport as well, if you are to get the miles from the flights.Â This is most likely to be an issue if you have a middle name which appears on your passport, but which you seldom use.Â The middle name will soon be required on your airline ticket, but then the name on the ticket may not match the name on your frequent flier account. Â When names don’t match, the airline’s computer rejects the frequent flier number as invalid and does not give you credit for the flight.
To avoid these kinds of hassles, now is the time to verify that the name on your frequent flier account matches you passport exactly.Â If not, change it now, and get used to using your full name on all airline tickets.Â And finally, start learning the birth dates of anyone you might want to travel with!