New security procedures are being rolled out at airports and airlines across the country. Beginning this weekend, passengers will be asked for their full name, birth date and gender when they book a ticket. That information will then be matched with the government-issued identification presented at the airport on the day of the flight.
This is the second phase of the Transportation Security Administration program called Secure Flight. Born out of recommendations from the 9/11 Commission, the new phase of the program makes the government — not the airlines — responsible for knowing just who is on domestic flights.
According to the TSA, collecting birth dates and gender information will make it easier to check passenger names against government watch lists. "It helps to better identify the known or suspected terrorists," says Paul Leyh, director of Secure Flight. "At the same time it helps to clear those who aren't terrorists, but have similar names."
At Dallas Love Field, homemaker Vicky Nixon was lukewarm on the idea of giving out more information. "Gender is OK," she says. "I don't know about birthday."
While the program begins this weekend, it won't be implemented all at once. Different carriers will be asking travelers for the information at different times. "So if they don't ask you for this information on or after Aug. 15, don't worry," counsels the TSA's Leyh, calling the process a "phased-in approach."
Southwest Airlines, for example, expects to start participating in this part of the program sometime in October. A high number — 80 percent — of Southwest customers book their tickets online, so the company has to redesign part of its Web site. Gone will be the days of booking a ticket with a shortened name or a nickname.
Southwest spokesman Paul Flaningan says his company is grateful for the TSA's flexibility when it comes to rolling out the changes. "They've done it the right way," he says. "They've been giving the airlines enough time to create [new] systems."
But even if they're being phased in, the new rules are coming as a surprise to some fliers.
"It's ridiculous," says Dallas passenger Wes Reeves. "If they're going to instigate new rules and regulations, they've got to do a much better job publicizing it."