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Domestic airlines are warning travel agents that passenger
name records could be canceled or agencies debited if they fail to properly
submit the appropriate data for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration's
Secure Flight program.
Though TSA since August of last year has been collecting new
Secure Flight data elements, including gender and date of birth, beginning Nov.
1, 2010, "TSA has threatened to return all non-compliant records to the
airlines for follow-up," regardless of where the booking originated, the
American Society of Travel Agents said in a warning to members last month.
Among the carriers that are getting tough on Secure Flight
compliance, US Airways is warning agents that itineraries not containing the
proper data elements could be canceled, Continental Airlines said it could
debit agencies for failing to submit Secure Flight data and American Airlines
said it would not issue tickets unless the data is present at the time of
"Ticketing transactions attempted without Secure Flight
passenger data will generate an error message advising that the data must be
collected," American Airlines vice president and general sales manager
Kurt Stache said in a letter to agencies last month, noting that American would
require the Secure Flight data at the time of ticketing no later than Sept. 15.
"As it stands today, the airlines collect Secure Flight
data at the time of booking with all airline-direct reservations,"
according to ASTA. "The agency channel has the flexibility to collect
Secure Flight data at any point during the reservation process as long as the
data elements are added to the PNR prior to 72 hours of travel. Yet this
flexibility comes at a risk, as the burden of following up with the customer
and updating the PNR is on the travel agent."
ASTA said it would work with TSA and the global distribution
systems to develop a solution for collecting Secure Flight data "in a way
that minimizes enforcement action by TSA and/or the airlines as the Nov. 1
The government in June assumed all watchlist-matching
responsibilities from all domestic airlines as part of Secure Flight. The next
step of the passenger prescreening system is for Department of Homeland
Security to assume by year-end the watchlist matching for passengers flying
international airlines to and from the United States.
DHS said the new program would reduce the number of
misidentified passengers that occurred under the predecessor program, the
Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, since Secure Flight requires
passengers to submit more biographic data to bounce against watchlists,
including passenger date of birth and gender.
The shortcoming with CAPPS, which based its
watchlist-matching process on name only, was that passengers could be flagged
for further security review at the airport if their name closely matched one on
the watchlist. With the new data elements, DHS said it has more parameters to
determine if a passenger is truly on a watchlist, or just has some coincidental
similarities to people considered threats to aviation security.
This story originally
appeared in the August 9, 2010, edition of Business Travel News.