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Airlines required to provide new passenger information to TSA

Jaclyn Giovis Nov 1, 2010

Starting today, passengers on U.S. airlines are required to provide their personal information in a new, standardized way before they board a flight.

“If you don’t provide the information, it’s pretty simple — you can’t complete your reservation, you can’t get a boarding pass, and you can’t travel,” David Castelveter, spokesman for Air Transport Association. The industry association represents all major U.S. airlines.

The new rule from the Transportation Security Administration mandates airlines collect a passenger’s full name (as it appears on government-issued ID), date of birth, and gender.

For passengers, filling out this information takes a matter of seconds to complete.

Carriers will forward the information to the TSA, so the agency can cross-check passengers against watch lists before airlines issue a boarding pass.

The TSA program, called Secure Flight, has been implemented in phases since late last year. The rule came as a result of a 9/11 Commission recommendation made six years ago. It’s geared towards improving aviation safety and providing consistency in the airline industry’s identification matching process.

Castelveter says the new rule has come at “a significant cost” to the airlines. They’ve had to upgrade equipment and hire new staff, he said.

JetBlue Airways spokeswoman Jenny Dervin said TSA has done the “heavy-lifting” in terms of informing passengers of the new requirement. The New York-based airline said its employees are prepared to answer any questions from passengers.

Last week, the TSA hosted a soft launch of the Secure Flight program at U.S. airports in Seattle, Portland, Ore., and a few others, Dervin said.

“We’re finding that allowing a little extra time for our customers is key,” she said.

For reservations booked on short notice, or within 72 hours of the scheduled flight departure time, airlines must submit the required passenger information as soon as the reservation is made.

Individuals found to match watch list parameters will be subjected to secondary screening, a law enforcement interview or will be prohibited from boarding an aircraft, depending on the specific case, the TSA said.

The TSA’s roll-out is unrelated to terror threats, which surfaced on Friday when two air cargo packages containing bombs — both sent from Yemen and addressed to synagogues in Chicago — were intercepted in Britain and Dubai.

Marketplace reporter David Gura contributed to this report.

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