Travel Agents Impacted by DHS Secure Flight Final Rule

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued its Final Rule on Secure Flight, according to an alert provided by ASTA. This rule impacts all agents by requiring the airlines to collect a passenger's full name, date of birth and gender. If this information is not provided, a boarding pass cannot be printed.

The rule It shifts the pre-departure watch list matching responsibilities from individual airlines to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which is one of the key recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission.  By bringing watch list matching responsibilities in-house, TSA hopes to reduce misidentifications when a traveler's name is similar to one found on a watch list. ASTA filed extensive comments on the proposed rule, most of which were acted upon favorably in the final rule.

What this means to travel agents is that, when notified by the airlines (probably one at a time as they are transitioned into the Secure Flight program), agents will be required to collect for each passenger: 1) full name as it appears on the identification to be used to pass through airport security; 2) date of birth; and 3) gender. This information must be collected no later than 72 hours prior to the scheduled departure time. If the reservation is made within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time, it must be collected at the time of booking.

The new rule will begin with a soft launch in early 2009, at which point some airlines can begin forwarding domestic data to TSA. A full implementation of Secure Flight will begin around September 2009, when the program would assume, from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the international air carriers, the watch list matching function for passengers on international flights.

Global distribution systems (GDS) have not yet announced procedures for travel agents to use when collecting the additional data elements. ASTA is working with the GDSs to obtain formats and will provide updates when new information is provided. Until then, agents should begin the process of updating customer profiles. If a traveler has a Redress Number, obtained from DHS following problems getting through security, this number should be collected as well.

ASTA said that it would provide a more detailed statement of the requirements and impacts of the new rules on agents business. “We will continuously monitor the implementation of Secure Flight and provide you with updates and practical suggestions as to how to deal with the program as efficiently as possible,”  ASTA said.

Visit www.asta.org.

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