It seems like every time you turn around, there’s a new security rule you have to remember at the airport.  Now, TSA has begun a new program called “Secure Flight,” which attempts to reduce the number of people who are misidentified as being on the government’s no-fly list for suspected terrorists. As a result, your airline will now ask you to provide your name exactly as it appears on your driver’s license or passport-whichever ID you plan to present at the gate.

The New York Times’ Practical Traveler blog has a great article about the Secure Flight initiative and what it means for you. Basically, you need to start making sure that your name is the same on all of the documents you use for travel (passport, driver’s license, frequent-flier accounts, etc).  Right now, Secure Flight is still being phased in, and small differences such as having your full middle name on your passport and your middle initial only on the ticket should not keep you from flying.

However, more significant differences between the name on your passport and the name on your ticket can lead airline security to pull you aside for the dreaded “secondary screening.” For example, going by your middle name on your ticket when your passport has your full name can cause problems when you try to board the plane, even if you go by your middle name in everyday life. Whether or not you will be allowed to eventually board the plane is a toss-up, and depends on the judgment of the agent screening you.

Making sure everything matches exactly will become more and more important as the Secure Flight initiative is rolled out.  According to the TSA blog, “Over time, passengers should strive to obtain consistency between the name on their ID and the travel information they use for booking flights.”  Currently, not all airlines’ booking systems allow the input of middle names, but that should change over the next few months as the system is phased in.

Also, if you want credit for your frequent-flier miles, make sure the name on your frequent flier account matches what is on your driver’s license and passport.

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