TSA on Monday will begin requiring passengers to provide complete Secure Flight passenger data when booking reservations so the agency can conduct watch-list matching and approve airlines to issue boarding passes.
The Nov. 1 date marks the end of a year-long grace period that airlines had to clear out reservations made prior to Secure Flight's Oct. 29, 2009, implementation date. Under Secure Flight, TSA prescreens passenger name, date of birth and gender against government watch-lists for domestic and international flights. In addition to facilitating secure travel for all passengers, the program helps prevent the misidentification of passengers who have names similar to individuals on government watch-lists, TSA said. Before Secure Flight, airlines conducted passenger watch-list checking.
"Secure Flight fulfills a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission Report, enabling TSA to screen passengers directly against government watch-lists using passenger name, date of birth, and gender before a boarding pass is issued," said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. "This program is one of our many layers of security — coordinated with our partners in the airline industry and governments around the world — that we leverage to protect the traveling public against threats of terrorism."
TSA projects that 99 percent of passengers are cleared by Secure Flight to print boarding passes at home by providing their date of birth, gender and name as it appears on the government ID they plan to use when traveling when booking airline tickets. Individuals found to match watch-list parameters are subjected to secondary screening, a law enforcement interview or prohibition from boarding an aircraft, depending on the specific case.
While TSA's watch-list matching takes seconds and can be completed up until the time of departure, the agency cautions passengers that a boarding pass will not be issued until the airline submits complete passenger data to Secure Flight. The agency noted that, despite the crackdown, minor variations in the name on the boarding pass and ID, like middle initials, should not present problems at checkpoints. "It is not uncommon for the information printed on boarding passes to differ slightly from the information on IDs, depending on the boarding pass printing practices of individual airlines," TSA explained on its Web site.