Secure Flight

» Posted by on Dec 25, 2014 in Airlines, Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

Secure Flight is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) traveler pre-screening program that matches limited traveler information against government watch lists to identify known and suspected terrorists, prevent known and suspected terrorists from boarding an aircraft, facilitate legitimate traveler air travel, and protect individuals’ privacy.  The laws that mandate Secure Flight are the 9/11 Commission Report, which recommended that TSA take over watch list matching from the airlines, and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) of 2004, which codified the 9/11 Commission Report and required DHS and TSA to assume from airlines the function of conducting pre-flight comparisons of airline passenger information to the federal government watch lists.

Information that is collected and transmitted to TSA is known as Secure Flight Passenger Data (SFPD).  The airlines transmit this data no later than 72 hours prior to flight time.  If a reservation is made within 72 hours of the flight, the data will be transferred at the time the reservation is made. The SFPD includes:

  • Name as it appears on government-issued I.D. when traveling  (required)
  • Date of Birth (required)
  • Gender (required)
  • Redress Number (if available) – Redress is an opportunity for passengers who believe they have been improperly or unfairly delayed or prohibited from boarding an aircraft to seek resolution and avoid future delays. The affected passengers often have the same or a similar name to someone on the watch list. The DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) provides a one-stop shop for passengers seeking redress. Secure Flight uses the results of the redress process in its watch list matching process to help prevent future delays for misidentified passengers.

TSA determined that mandating the provision of the additional data elements would greatly reduce the number of passengers misidentified as a match to the watch list.  It is to the passenger’s advantage to provide the required data elements in order to prevent delays and/or inconveniences at the airport.

Secure Flight has been in effect since October 31, 2009 in which it began requiring all airlines request and collect SFPD.  It was phased in with each airline.  Implementation with all domestic airlines was completed in the spring of 2010 and international carriers were completed by the end of 2010.

The goals of the Secure Flight program are to:

  • Identify known and suspected terrorists
  • Prevent individuals on the No Fly List from boarding an aircraft
  • Subject individuals on the Selectee List to enhanced screening to determine if they are permitted to board an aircraft
  • Facilitate passenger air travel
  • Protect individuals’ privacy

The benefits provided by Secure Flight are that TSA:

  • Decreases the chance for compromised watch list data by limiting its distribution
  • Provides earlier identification of potential matches, allowing for expedited notification of law enforcement and threat management
  • Provides a fair, equitable, and consistent matching process across all airlines
  • Reduces instances of misidentified individuals
  • Offers consistent application of an integrated redress process for misidentified individuals via the DHS’s TRIP

You may ask, “What does the Secure Flight program mean for me?”  The biggest change for most passengers is that they now have to provide additional information when booking a reservation for air travel than they did before.  Under Secure Flight, airlines require that passengers provide their full name as it appears on the form of ID used for the trip, date of birth, and gender when making a reservation to travel and will request a passenger’s Redress Number and passport information if available.  Not providing the required information can result in additional security screening for the passenger which will cause an inconvenience, delays, and the possibility of being prohibited to board the aircraft.

The ETS system that is used by my agency does not allow travelers to book airline reservations online without the required information.  The traveler has to provide the required information in order to book online or they have the option of contacting the Travel Management Center (TMC) to book the reservation.  By calling the TMC, the traveler will not be exempt from providing the SFPD information.  The TMC will ask for the information.  Also by calling the TMC, the traveler will incur a higher TMC fee than what he/she would have if they had booked online.

TSA takes the security of personal information very seriously.  The personal data that Secure Flight collects is protected by the highest set of security protocol standards established by the federal government.  TSA’s Office of Privacy Policy and Compliance collaborates with the Chief Information Security Office (CI-SO) to work with program offices during the design and implementation of systems to ensure compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a.

“The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.”

By Susan Crouser

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