Mar 12, 2009

Airline Identification Changes

If you are John T. Smith or Katherine A. Jones on your driver’s license and listed as Johnny Smith or Kathy Jones on your airline frequent flyer program(s), you could miss out on upgrade opportunities or other perks later this year.

New rules for pre-screening passengers will require the name on your booking information, including your frequent flyer programs, to match your government-issued ID. "Long story short, the name you registered in your frequent flyer program has to match the name on the document used to verify your identity at the airport -- usually a driver’s license or passport."

“It is the employee’s responsibility to ensure all documents match.” The change is happening because the Department of Homeland Security, in its "Final Rule on Secure Flight," is shifting pre-departure terrorist watch list matching responsibilities from individual airlines to the Transportation Safety Administration. The frequent flyer rule, along with others, will be phased in through the second half of the year.

Here are two examples to illustrate the change:

An American Airlines frequent flyer for 14 years has booked reservations under R. David Baker. His ID reads Robert David Baker and his frequent flyer account reads Robert Baker. American advised him to either change his reservation name to match his frequent flyer account in order to receive miles and upgrades, or he must change his frequent flyer account to match his reservation name. Ultimately, his government ID name will trump either process.

A traveler’s Continental OnePass account is listed as “Shawn,” but his ID and passport is listed as “Shaun.” In 10 years, he has never had a problem until he went to check-in for international flight. “On the surface, it would seem easy to change the name on your frequent flyer account to match your government-issued ID, but each airline has a different procedure for name changes,” Huffman said. “Some allow a letter to be faxed, some will do it by phone and some require documentation to be sent via email only.”

To prevent problems, frequent flyers should start the process now. Attached are links to most major airline website name change information pages or phone numbers if they do not have online information:

American Continental Delta (see “Name and Address Changes)
Northwest: call 1-800-447-3757
Southwest: call 1-800-445-5764


  1. My original birth certificate had my name spelled incorrectly (double ll's). Through most of my life it wasn't an issue, but in 1984, I filed the documents needed to amend the spelling on my birth certificate. Having done that, I always spell out my name ... so unless the dang travel agent goofs up (and adds an extra l), I always match up. This is good information to know (that airlines are going to be more picky).
    Glad I already have my ducks in a row. :)

  2. I have no problem with making sure everything matches, although you're the one with the frequent flyer accounts, so I don't have to worry about that!

  3. That is something I always made sure matched up ... part of being a in travel sales in the past. I want NO reason for being denyed miles, seats, etc!


  4. Hi Ken,
    Thanks ... this is very important information. I'll need to call United to make sure everything's "kosher."

  5. The Airline's track record recently makes me glad I don't fly anymore. I used to love flying but as I grow older I'd much rather do a slow road trip and enjoy the sights.
    Hugs, Joyce

  6. Ken:

    I have not been on a plane since my childhood and it was a friends plane. Still I thank you for the info and will remeber it, because I have always used Wes, but its just my middle name shortened.

    I don't know how but when I was younger I was even given a SS card tat reads Wes. My original is falling apart and it says my Given first name.

    I have been on a helicopter once or twice. We went through part of the Bermunda Triangle, and I made it back to land. It was a little spookey but I loved the ride.

    I hope you have a good day tomorrow.

    Blessed Be

  7. Thank you for the information. My daughter just purchased a ticket for me for Mother's Day and I don't believe she added my middle initial.

    Hugs, Rose

  8. Thanks for that information. I'm going to pass that info along to my sister who was divorced last year and racks up the frequent flyer miles.

  9. LOL it's such an automatic response for me to criticize the airlines for nearly everything, but I'm not sure if I like this revamped process or not!


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