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December 18, 2009 8:38 PM   Subscribe

My brother gets security grief when he flies. Is there a solution?

Wondering about airline security. I purchased a flight for myself and my brother online using my credit card. Day of fight I went to do early (within 24 hour check-in) and it says my brother in unable to do it and must show ID at airport. Brother says, yeah this has happened before, his name is on a list and he has filled out a form and sent it in with all the information they (the Gubmint I presume) requested. Apparently that did not solve the problem. We know this is a fairly common issue, and the airline lady at the counter implied it was a waste of time to try and fix it, as he had attempted. Our names are common (or so it seems to me) like Richard and James Smith. Granted that may not be relevant. Because he couldn't be checked in early, and it was an airline whereby you acquire a position in line for seating based on check in time, he was cheated (or so we feel) out of a more favorable position. The only information I gave about him when buying the ticket was his name.

Is there a way to fix this? (Despite what the airline lady said). That is, has anyone successfully fixed this? How do they know he is THE James Smith just by his name (the one who needs further ID check)? Do all of the James Smiths who engage in airline travel enjoy this extra scrutiny? Sorry if that is multiple questions. Neither he nor I fly all that often, but it seems to be a nuisance. Thanks!
posted by Fortnight Bender to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Nope. I have the same problem, and there's nothing he can really do beyond fill out the TSA forms online.
posted by ellF at 9:02 PM on December 18, 2009

Send a letter to your elected officials explaining how much you appreciate their carefully thought out airline safety legislation.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:11 PM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

This happened to my husband. He filled out the forms 5 years ago, and LAST WEEK we got a letter from the TSA with a special number I guess he's supposed to show at the ticket desk, or something. But in the time it took them (years) to send us that letter, his name must have fallen off the list or something, because he never gets bugged any more.

So maybe in 2015, your brother too will receive a magical, by-then-useless number.
posted by GaelFC at 9:36 PM on December 18, 2009

In the past there were reports of people having some luck by booking their flights with minor variations of their names (Jim Smith/James T. Smith/James Theodore Smith), rather than sticking with the James Smith that was causing the flagging, but I suspect that now the ID must match the booking exactly this gambit will no longer work (at least not without going to the trouble of changing the name on your ID).
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:42 PM on December 18, 2009

This is the site you want. When you make reservations online you can put the number they give you in. As GaelFC said, though, they're not likely to drop everything and do it as soon as humanly possible.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:45 PM on December 18, 2009

My wife is a tiny Lt. Colonel in the USAF Reserves and gets the full security screen every time she flies.. Has since shortly after the TSA took over and flashing her military ID seems to make it worse in some airports rather than better..
posted by SteveG at 9:48 PM on December 18, 2009

My dad's name is on the TSA list. When he books and checks in using his First *Middle* Last name, he has no problem. Good system, huh?
posted by meerkatty at 6:50 AM on December 19, 2009

My name is on the list as well. I now routinely use meerkatty's solution. It works. All it takes to defuse this security system is a middle initial.

Awesome system, isn't it?

now the ID must match the booking exactly
It's a few months since I flew anywhere, but nobody has yet given me trouble over this.

Do all of the James Smiths who engage in airline travel enjoy this extra scrutiny?
One gate agent -- the same one who let me in on the middle initial trick -- told me it was a combination of name and birth date. (I have not seen this confirmed elsewhere, but it seems plausible.)
posted by ook at 7:26 AM on December 19, 2009

This scenario is exactly what the TSA Secure Flight program was designed to address. I'm surprised you were not required to provide a birthdate when you booked and/or checked in for these flights, as that seems to be the norm now.
posted by Nothlit at 7:56 AM on December 19, 2009

Hmm. It's possible I entered his birth date when I booked, but I don't recall it. That could explain the connection.

The first thing I thought when I heard about this was to try "Jim" instead of "James". Sounds like that is indeed worth a try.

Thanks for the comments and links, I'll send them along to him.
posted by Fortnight Bender at 8:44 AM on December 19, 2009

"now the ID must match the booking exactly
It's a few months since I flew anywhere, but nobody has yet given me trouble over this."

They just started doing this a few months ago.
posted by dfan at 9:05 AM on December 19, 2009

Is your brother named David Nelson? that one is apparently pretty common.

Humorously, Osama Bin Laden isn't on the no-fly list.
posted by Megafly at 11:21 PM on December 19, 2009

They just started doing this a few months ago.

Hmm... if so, my christmas travel is liable to be interesting...
posted by ook at 7:52 PM on December 20, 2009

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