New rules: Airline ticket name must match ID exactly

If your passport or driver's license includes a full middle name that you don't normally use, you may be asked to include that name on your ticket the next time you fly within the United States and by next year if you fly overseas. This new requirement from the Transportation Security Administration as part of its Secure Flight initiative seems to be sneaking up on a lot of travelers and apparently on airlines as well.

ABOUT THE CHANGE

The principle of the new rule is that you must travel under your name as it appears on the ID you use to get on a flight, which generally means either a passport or a driver's license domestically; a passport or a passport-derived "enhanced" driver's license internationally.

The mandate is supposed to make it easier for travelers, airlines and the TSA to avoid ID hassles at airports. Because the master lists of questionable travelers apparently are in full-name format, the TSA wants to make sure that travel documents conform to its lists.

WHAT IT MEANS

Under the new rule, when you make a flight reservation, each airline is supposed to get your full name and pass it along to the TSA. An agency spokesman said your ticket and/or boarding pass also should have your full name.

Later this summer, according to the TSA, airlines will begin asking passengers to provide their date of birth and gender. TSA's goal is for Secure Flight to be fully implemented in early 2010 for all domestic flights and the end of 2010 for all international flights.

AVOIDING PROBLEMS

The requirement poses no problem for you if your passport and driver's license are issued in the form that you normally use in travel. As long as your ticket has the name on your ID, the TSA won't give you any problems. But if your official documents include your middle name but you don't use it for travel arrangements, you could be in for some grief. The TSA has announced it will be lenient in case of small differences, at least at first.

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