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