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Secure Flight is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 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 Secure Flight program added data elements that airlines were not previously collecting. The airlines must transmit the data, no later than 72 hours prior to flight time, to TSA for clearance to issue a boarding pass. If a reservation is made within 72 hours of the flight, the data is transferred at the time the reservation is made. Secure Flight is intended to improve the monitoring of traveler’s identification and to make air travel safer for all.
Since August 2009, travelers have been required to provide Secure Flight Passenger Data (SFPD) at the time of reservation. SFPD data includes:
- Full Name which matches the form of ID used for the trip (required)
- Itinerary (required)
- Date of Birth (DOB) (required)
- Gender (required)
- Redress Number (optional)
- Passport # for international itineraries (if available)
The ETS contractors and travel management centers (TMCs) responded immediately to this requirement and added SFPD data fields to the traveler’s electronic profiles and reservation processes to capture this information at no cost to the government.
TSA’s Secure Flight Program is now moving into a final phase which will require 100% participation on all reservations booked for travel beginning November 1, 2010 and beyond.
Our ETS vendors have once again responded immediately to this new requirement and modified the system to prevent travelers from booking an online reservation if they don’t have the required SFPD information in their profile. The system will allow them to continue the reservation process only after the information is provided. Since SFPD information is considered personally identifiable information (PII), and some travelers are reluctant to store that data in an electronic system, they have the option of saving the information to their permanent profile or completing the information on a trip-by-trip basis. The TMCs are also assisting in this effort by requesting the SFPD information when travelers call for assistance in booking reservations.
Our agency has extended extra efforts to help facilitate the Secure Flight requirements for our customers. After the initial phase was implemented in August of 2009, we reviewed every active account in our ETS system to identify those without SFPD in their profile. We sent individual emails to our account holders that were missing SFPD and provided education on the Secure Flight program as well as instructions on how to update their account profiles.
We requested reports from our ETS vendor to identify all account profiles that did not have the SFPD data stored electronically. The reports were distributed to our individual agency contacts so they could relay the upcoming changes to their travelers and encourage them to update their account profiles. Additional reports were obtained from the TMCs to identify all reservations previously booked with a departure date of September first and beyond. These reports were distributed to the agencies to alert their travelers to call the TMC and update their Passenger Name Record (PNR) information to include SFPD. This will avoid their reservations being affected by any airline policy that could inhibit ticket issuance. Contacting the TMC to add SFPD to an existing reservation will likely result in an agent assisted fee being charged when the ticket is issued. The ETS contract permits TMCs to charge agent assisted fees when reservations require agent assistance to ticket, even if the original reservation was made online.
In addition to the extra work being done by our office, the airline industry is also implementing processes to ensure compliance with TSA’s requirements. The airline industry’s reaction to the new Secure Flight requirements has been to inhibit the issuance of a ticket if the passenger’s Secure flight data is not present in the PNR and in some cases, the carriers will take actions such as cancellation of the reservations and issuing debit memos. With no uniform airline approach to implementation, our ETS vendor and TMCs are targeting September 15th to have their own SFPD capability in place to avoid possible cancellations and potential liability.
While the new Secure Flight requirements are important for keeping our airways safe and secure, the impact on the ETS vendors and TMCs as well as the ETS FATAs has resulted in an increased workload. A great deal of time and work has gone into updating the ETS systems, providing customer information and training, updating electronic profiles, monitoring reports, updating current reservations, and answering questions that come in through the travel help desks.
By Carole Byrd
Disclaimer: The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency. Use of this equipment is consistent with the agency’s policy governing limited personal use.