Stricter identification requirements to hit air travelers this year

Posted March 17, 2009, at 8:33 p.m.

Air travelers soon will have to make sure their formal identification matches the name they use to buy their tickets if they hope to board their plane.

New rules established by the federal Transportation Security Administration scheduled to go into effect later this year require that the name given when purchasing tickets exactly matches the federally approved ID card needed to pass through airport security. Under the agency’s Secure Flight Program, travelers also will have to give their date of birth and gender when purchasing tickets.

“We have not specified a date yet, but it will go into effect in early 2009,” TSA spokesperson Ann Davis said from her Boston office Tuesday. “TSA has been working on this for quite a while, though the final rule has not been published.”

Davis said the Secure Flight Program was developed by the Department of Homeland Security to be administered by the TSA. Secure Flight will enable the agency to conduct uniform prescreening of passenger information against federal government watch lists for all domestic and international flights.

Once the rule is in place, she said, TSA will take over the responsibility for checking passengers against government watch lists. Passenger screening against those lists is currently being conducted by the airlines.

Having the government screen passengers was one of the key recommendations of the Sept. 11 Commission created in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 2001, according to a press release announcing the changes. By bringing watch list matching responsibilities in-house, TSA can better remedy possible misidentifications when a traveler’s name is similar to one found on a watch list.

Airlines will be required to collect a passenger’s full name, date of birth and gender when accepting a reservation. The agency believes the additional information will prevent most inconveniences at the airport.

Davis said that under the rule, travelers’ names must match letter for letter what is listed on their government approved ID. If the name on the ID is John Quincy Public, the name on the ticket cannot read John Q. Public. The ID must have a photograph of the holder.

IDs accepted by airport security screeners include a U.S. passport, U.S. passport card, driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles or equivalent, U.S. military ID, Permanent Resident Card, Border Crossing Card, Department of Homeland Security-designated enhanced driver’s license, Native American Tribal Photo ID, an airline or airport-issued ID, a foreign government passport, Transportation Worker Identification Credential or Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card.

Those whose IDs fail to match the name on their tickets will have to go through a secondary screening that could delay boarding their flight or missing it altogether.

Secure Flight will be implemented in two phases. The program initially will assume the watch list matching responsibility for passengers on domestic flights from aircraft operators beginning early this year. In the second stage of implementation, which is targeted to begin in late 2009, the Secure Flight program will take over watch list matching on international flights from Customs and Border Protection.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 required the Department of Homeland Security to assume passenger comparisons from the airlines.

The Secure Flight Final Rule follows a Notice of Proposed Rule Making published in the Federal Register in August 2007.

An information sheet on the Secure Flight program is available at www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/privacy/privacy_pia_secureflight2008.pdf.

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