ASTA has advised member agents that ASTA and the Interactive Travel Services Association (ITSA) have worked directly with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to get the final data definitions for Secure Flight released. The two associations have been ahead of the curve on Secure Flight issues that impact all travel agents. ASTA said it is also in the process of developing a white paper on Secure Flight that will be released in January 2009.
The TSA has set up a travel agents section on its web sit www.tsa.gov to assist agents understand the program that takes effect in 2009, including compliance and customer privacy issues.
The TSA says: “As a member of the travel community, we understand that the Secure Flight requirements affect you in several ways. The most significant change is the additional passenger information required from passengers when making an airline reservation. As a liaison between aircraft operators and passengers, you play an important part in the airline's reservation process."
Here are several changes that will impact airlines and that the airlines may require of agents:
* New information requirements – Under Secure Flight, passengers will be required to provide their full name, date of birth, and gender when making an airline reservation. They will also be asked (but not required) to provide other information such as passenger's redress number
* Privacy protections –In order to ensure customers of the security of personal information for passengers, the Final Rule provides that aircraft operators should make a privacy notice available on public websites and self-serve kiosks before collecting any personally identifiable information from passengers or non-traveling individuals. As agents who book travel reservations on behalf of the airlines, the airlines may require that you post this privacy notice as well.
The TSA website also addresses privacy concerns: “Ensuring the privacy of your customers is a cornerstone of Secure Flight. TSA has developed a comprehensive privacy plan to incorporate privacy laws and practices into all areas of Secure Flight. As a member of the travel industry, you are an important part of this plan. As a point of direct contact with passengers, it is crucial that you understand your role, as required by the airlines whose bookings you sell, in this privacy plan." TSA encourages agents to take the following to enhance passenger privacy:
* Understand what passenger information is required and what information is optional
* Provide thorough training to customer representatives on the proper procedure to use when making reservations and dealing with customers face to face.
* Use the appropriate language when communicating with passengers
* Be sure to post privacy notices at points of customer contact, per requirements from the airlines whose bookings you hold, alerting your customers of the steps you have taken to protect their privacy.