TSA Needs Your Exact Name When You Fly Now

The TSA is finally transitioning from airline handling of the watch lists to the long-delayed and oft-criticized Secure Flight program, and that means there will be some changes in the way you book your flight. Last week we saw the first change, and now you better be careful what name you use.

I’ll just go ahead and assume that most people here book under their actual names and not some random name just for fun, especially since that’s not exactly permissible. But this rule does say that you have to book your tickets under the exact name that you have on the ID you plan on using.

What? You were doing that already? Maybe, but maybe not. If you have your middle name on your license and that’s the ID you want to use, you have to put your middle name on the ticket. Just have a middle initial on your license? Then that’s what you should put on there. Are you like many airline executives who use their first initial and then middle name (W Douglas Parker and J Scott Kirby come to mind)? Book it that way.

Don’t worry if things aren’t exactly right in the beginning. The TSA says:

For the near future, small differences between ID and reservation information, such as the use of a middle initial instead of a full middle name or no middle name/initial at all, should not cause a problem for the passenger.

Note the first four words of that quote. This leniency will apparently be temporary, so you might as well start booking it this way now to avoid whatever might be in store. Since they don’t give an end date for the more relaxed restrictions, you should just assume that it could end at any time. And remember, if you have your name listed differently on your license and your passport, you’ll need to remember which piece of ID you’ll be using for that particular trip.

What if your airline doesn’t have a box for middle name? Eh, I’d just throw it in with the first name. What if your name is too long to fit? (Yes, I’m talking to you, Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff.) I’d just squeeze as much in there as you can and hope for the best.

You’ve got a few months to get used to this before the next change. On August 15, you’ll have to provide your birth date and gender as well if you’re on a domestic airline. (Presumably, privacy rules in other countries have foiled their plans to roll this out everywhere?)

If you’re transgender, you’re probably dreading that day. But that’s probably a topic for another post.

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