Secure Flight’s Perils

Last month I wrote about the implementation of Secure Flight, TSA’s new initiative to improve security and reduce false positives to the watch lists. The first phase of this program requires passengers to fly under their full name, middle name included, as it appears on their travel documents. This phase started May 15th.

I warned that frequent fliers better make sure that their accounts reflect their full name, and not a shortened version under which they may have traveled before. Reservation systems match the name on the frequent flier account with the name on the reservation, and may make it more difficult for travelers to ensure they get their proper mileage credit.

Yesterday I encountered another instance in which Secure Flight may cause problems for travelers. A client of mine was planning a trip and wanted to use credit leftover from a flight canceled last year. No biggie, we do it all the time, right? Well, his reservation was made following Secure Flight guidelines, to John Steven Harris (fictitious name, obviously). His credit, however, was for a ticket made to a “John Harris”. Slight difference, but the airline (American Airlines in this case), would not process it because the names did not match. Now, airlines do not allow changes to the name once a reservation has been made, and to compound the problem, making a new reservation under John Harris would not have worked because the fare we were holding was no longer available.

After a call to the Agent Sales Support desk at American, they granted us a waiver to change the name so we could process the credit. In fact, they did it with me on the phone and issued the ticket using the credit.

The only issue is that the passenger will be flying under John Harris, which does not comply with Secure Flight rules. This will not be a problem in the first few months of the program, but as time passes, it will become more and more difficult to handle these exception. That is one reason why working with a travel agent can help you make sure all the ducks are in a row before you head out to the airport to a nasty surprise, or at the very least, a few additional questions by your friendly TSA inspector.


Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171


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