Airport check-in phone call
April 26, 2005 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Starting two weeks ago, e-checkin machines at airports have stopped letting me check in for a flight. I can no longer print boarding passes from the web, either. I now have to wait to talk to a ticket agent, who then has to make a lengthy phone call before I can check in, because I am on "the list". What is this list? How can I get off it? What is that phone call about?
posted by rajbot to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
It seems that your name appears on the do not fly list, alas.
posted by redfoxtail at 9:58 AM on April 26, 2005

NPR ran a story for you this morning...
posted by togdon at 10:05 AM on April 26, 2005

Oh, sorry, it's more properly known as the "no-fly" list, isn't it? I don't know why it seems that everyone I know says "do not fly" instead.
posted by redfoxtail at 10:08 AM on April 26, 2005

Oh, sorry, it's more properly known as the "no-fly" list, isn't it? I don't know why it seems that everyone I know says "do not fly" instead.

Probably because of the Do Not Call list.

You might also be flagged for another reason than that your name is similar to someone on the no fly list. It's possible the person at the counter just says "you're on the list" whenever you get flagged for anything. Are you flying round trip? For a while most airlines were flagging everyone with a one-way ticket. Did you buy the ticket very close to the day of the flight? Someone's probably put together a comprehensive list of possible reasons.

Do you fly the same airline every time? If so, I'd recommend calling them and asking to talk to the frequent flier department people. They won't be able to do anything about being on the no fly list, but you might be able to talk your way into a Gold (or whatever) Membership which could mean that you could use a different line at the airport to check in. That's a bit of a long shot, though.
posted by MarkAnd at 10:16 AM on April 26, 2005

ACLU is working on lawsuits (1, 2) right now for people on the no-fly list. Possibly you could get yourself added to the plaintiffs.
posted by insideout at 10:18 AM on April 26, 2005

Try making your reservations with or without your middle name (depending on what you do now). I can't remember where, but I read that sometimes just adding a middle initial will change your name enough that you aren't flagged any more. I understand that this does not either a) make one feel good about the efficacy of our majestic govt b) explain why some people get stopped when they have a name 'like someone on the list' unless that phrase means exactly the same.

Good luck.
posted by OmieWise at 10:44 AM on April 26, 2005

I remember reading that, OmieWise. Here's the link:

"TSA spokesman Mark Hatfield said using middle initials, middle names or even suffixes such as “Jr.” could cut down the number of “false positives.” "

Doesn't really inspire you with confidence, now, does it?
posted by Boobus Tuber at 10:52 AM on April 26, 2005

Good thing teh terrorists don't know about these loopholes.
posted by docgonzo at 11:03 AM on April 26, 2005

I'm going to get all my tickets under a name with the prefix "The Amazing..."

If anyone asks, I'm a magician.
posted by odinsdream at 11:06 AM on April 26, 2005

I'm going to get all my tickets under a name with the prefix "The Amazing..."

I was talking to someone who had to buy an extra seat on a plane to hold his guitar and the name he used on that ticket was "Mister Guitar".
posted by MarkAnd at 11:12 AM on April 26, 2005

When I signed up for Northwest frequent flier program I was amazed with the number of possible prefix and suffix combinations. I added a Swami and VIII to become the amazing:

Swami batboy VIII.

Of course my id is only a simple Mr. batboy but my boarding pass always says Swami and VIII. Thankfully I've never been questioned/delayed and I fly a lot.
posted by batboy at 11:18 AM on April 26, 2005

Do logic textbooks put out these days list a fallacy along the lines of "Appealing to rational thinking"?

Because they should, keeping reference material up to date is critical.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 12:14 PM on April 26, 2005

Thanks, all!!

The audio link that togdon posted has information on how to get off the list, which seems to involve giving TSA your first born. Since I don't have any children to give up, I will just avoid flying. Never liked flying anyway...
posted by rajbot at 1:06 PM on April 26, 2005

Rajbot -- often, just a trival "name" change can fix it up. Rather than flying as Raj Bot, fly as R Bot.

I know two guys who've "delisted" themsevles this way.
posted by eriko at 1:25 PM on April 26, 2005

Somehow your name, or something like your name, has gotten on a TSA suspicious persons list. Once that happens every rajbot in the world gets inspected before (if) they get a ticket that goes through North America.

The ticket agent is either getting permission to let you go anyhow - they're probably dozens, maybe hundreds of perfectly innocent rajbots out there - or collecting up enough information about you/them to suggest that you are probably not the rajbot they are looking for.

Or if they're slick they could let you on the plane and have an armed and dangerous air marshal watching you, follow you after the flight to see where your sleeper cell is located, who knows? They don't have to say and they won't.

The TSA and the airlines are not accountable to you and are unlikely to do anything about the problem unless you force them to. The low level drones that actually deal with the public at the airport will also lie or pass the buck if you try to pressure them. For the time being you should assume that *every* attempt by you to take a plane will require this whole procedure.

The good news is that if you fiddle around with your name you can get yourself past the screening. Try going as rajabot next time, or rajbota, or A. rajbot II. Do not point out to airport staff that you are doing this.

I know that there is someone out there flying as Ken McE that the customs people want to have long and intimate discussions with. I can be on another continent and I still get flagged at customs. There are few enough Ken McE's around that I assume he's posing as me. The rascal even flies out of the same airports I do.

Fortunately they have a picture or description or something in their system that lets them see that I'm not him after they stop me at customs. Whatever it is comes up fairly quickly when they check so I don't lose more than five or ten minutes each time my passport goes through the scanner.

He always pays his credit cards bills promptly -better than I do actually, which is good for my credit rating- so I don't have any real incentive to try and get the customs people to cough up the story on who this guy is and what he's doing with my (formerly) good name. I don't fly as Ken A. McE II because I like to check in now and then and see how he's doing.
posted by Ken McE at 4:35 PM on April 26, 2005

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