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It was recommended by the 9/11 Commission Report that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) take over the matching of the terrorist watch list from airlines.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and (TSA) developed a behind the scenes, prescreening program that will theoretically match traveler information against government watch lists to identify suspected and known terrorist and individuals who have been misidentified in the past – Secure Flight.
Secure Flight is intended to prevent known or suspected terrorist from boarding flights and protect legitimate airline customers identity. By moving the watch list matching responsibility that was previously performed by dozens of air carriers to TSA, it has simplified and streamlined the process, therefore, making it much more efficient. According to TSA, then, Acting Administrator Gale Rossides, “Secure Flight will make travel safer and easier for passengers.”
According to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano “These new measures utilize real-time, threat-based intelligence along with multiple, random layers of security, both seen and unseen, to more effectively mitigate evolving terrorist threats”.
Secure Flight collects data that airlines previously did not collect and transmits the information no later than 72 hours prior to the departure time. If a reservation is made within 72 hours of the flight, the information is transmitted when the reservation is made. TSA requires that airlines collect and transmit the following:
- Full name which matches the form of ID presented
- Date of Birth
- Redress number – optional
- Passport # for international itineraries (if available)
Secure Flight was a phased-in operation. Implementation for all domestic airlines occurred throughout 2009, as some airlines were implementation later than others. Secure Flight was also implemented for international flights. Airlines will not be able to issue a boarding pass until the data is transmitted to TSA and they respond with authorization to print a boarding pass. Airlines were not required to transmit data for reservations that were made prior to the implementation, but may have done so voluntarily..
The second phase of Secure Flight began approximately August 15, 2009 when travelers were required to provide their gender and date of birth when booking travel.
TSA’s goal was to have Secure Flight 100% implemented and operational for all domestic flights by early 2010 and 100% operational for all international travelers by the end of 2010.
How did Secure Flight affect the average traveler? There was little to no affect on the average traveler. Before Secure Flight, airlines matched passenger information against a No Fly list which was provided by TSA. Under Secure Flight, TSA takes over this function from the airlines. The biggest change for travelers is that airlines will request additional information from a passenger when making a reservation. Providing the additional information listed above should differentiate a passenger from someone who is on the watch list and prevent misidentification.
Travelers need to make certain that their name on the reservation matches their government issued ID. Passengers should try to be consistent between the name on their ID and the travel information they use for booking flights.
If a passenger is identified as a possible match to the watch list, he will not be able to get a boarding pass until he has checked in with the airline, providing them with identifying documentation. The airline will not be able to provide a boarding pass for any passenger who is confirmed to be on the No Fly List. Therefore, providing your full name, correct date of birth and gender when making a reservation may prevent being misidentified as a potential match to the watch list.
Travelers who believe they have been mistakenly matched to a name on the watch list should apply for Redress through the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP). The results of the redress process are used in the watch list matching process, by Secure Flight, to prevent future misidentifications of travelers who may have a name that is similar to an individual on the watch list.
Secure Flight takes the security of personal information seriously. The collected information is protected by the highest set of security standards established by the federal government.
According to some airlines one of the down falls of Secure Flight is problems encountered by frequent fliers. Secure Flight requires your full legal name. However, a lot of frequent flier accounts do not reflect the passenger’s full name. It is usually first and last name or first name, middle initial and last name. Therefore since the names do not match, the passenger could be missing out on upgrade opportunities and other airline perks. If a travelers name is different than that on their frequent flyer account, the traveler should contact the airline frequent flyer program to determine what steps are necessary to update their frequent flyer account information
By Diane Huffman