TSA - Secure Flight

Secure Flight Program

Q. What is Secure Flight and what does it do?

A. Secure Flight is a behind the scenes program that streamlines the watch list matching process. It will improve the travel experience for all passengers, including those who have been misidentified in the past.

Q. Are all airlines participating in the Secure Flight program at this time?

A. No. Secure Flight will be phased-in and each airline will be incorporating the necessary changes into their systems over the coming months. Passengers shouldn't be concerned if particular airlines don't ask them to provide the additional information right away; it should not impact their travel. Each airline will request this information as their capability to capture it is integrated into their individual systems.

Q. If the name printed on my boarding pass is different than what appears on my government ID, will I still be able to fly?

A. Boarding passes may not always display the exact name you provided when booking your travel. The name you provide when booking your travel is used to perform the watch list matching before a boarding pass is ever issued, so small differences should not impact your travel. Secure Flight is a behind-the-scenes process that TSA and airlines collaborate on to compare the information you provide against government watch lists. The additional data elements that you may be asked to provide, such as date of birth and gender, serve to better differentiate you from individuals on the government watch list.

You should ensure that the name provided when booking your travel matches the government ID that you will use when traveling. However, TSA has built some flexibility into the processes regarding passenger name accuracy. For the near future, small differences between the passenger’s ID and the passenger’s reservation information, such as the use of a middle initial instead of a full middle name or no middle name/initial at all, should not cause a problem for the passenger. Over time, passengers should strive to obtain consistency between the name on their ID and their travel information.

Q. What if my name and I.D. do not exactly match when I arrive at security? Will I be turned away and unable to fly?

A. No. Secure Flight will not impact the process at the security checkpoint in any way. At the security checkpoint, TSA strives to ensure you are who you say you are. TSA performs travel document checking to see that you, your identification, and your boarding pass match and are valid. TSA performs this function because identity matters and it is critical to security to ensure that individuals with hostile intent do not board aircraft. Secure Flight is a behind-the-scenes process that TSA and airlines collaborate on to compare the information you provide against government watch lists. The additional data elements that you may be asked to provide, such as date of birth and gender, serve to better differentiate you from individuals on the government watch list. Secure Flight will not impact the security checkpoint experience. While Secure Flight and travel document checking are both critical security functions, they serve different purposes at different points in the security process.

Q. Does the name on all of my IDs have to match? What if my driver's license has only my middle initial, but my passport has my full name? Should I change my driver's license to match my passport?

A. Secure Flight does not require that the names on all of your IDs be identical. Passengers should provide their name as it appears on their government-issued ID they plan to use when traveling. This provides TSA the best information possible to use when performing watch list matching. This will result in a better process for travelers and greatly reduces the number of misidentifications. By adding date of birth and gender, the number of misidentifications is reduced further and can more readily identify passengers who do not pose a threat.


Secure Flight Overview

Secure Flight is a program developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in response to a key 9/11 Commission recommendation: uniform watch list matching by TSA. The mission of the Secure Flight program is to enhance the security of domestic and international commercial air travel through the use of improved watch list matching.
Secure Flight conducts uniform prescreening of passenger information against federal government watch lists for domestic and international flights. TSA is taking over this responsibility from aircraft operators who, up until now, have been responsible for checking passengers against government watch lists. Secure Flight passenger watch list matching will eventually apply to all domestic and international passengers traveling on covered aircraft operator flights into, out of, within or over the United States. Secure Flight will also apply to point-to-point international flights operated by U.S.-based aircraft operators.
The initial implementation phase of Secure Flight which began in early 2009 will result in the complete transfer of responsibility for passenger watch list matching to TSA from aircraft operators whose flights operate within the United States. The second phase of Secure Flight will result in the transfer of responsibility for passenger watch list matching to TSA for flights into, out of, and over the United States to TSA.
By assuming watch list matching responsibilities from the airlines, TSA:

  • Decreases the chance for compromised watch list data by limiting its distribution
  • Provides earlier identification of potential matches, allowing for expedited notification of law enforcement and threat management
  • Provides a fair, equitable, and consistent matching process across all airlines
  • Reduces instances of misidentified individuals
  • Offers consistent application of an expedited and integrated redress process for misidentified individuals via the Department of Homeland Security's Travel Redress
  • Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP)

How it Works

Secure Flight matches the name, date of birth and gender information for each passenger against government watch lists to:

  • Identify known and suspected terrorists
  • Prevent individuals on the No Fly List from boarding an aircraft
  • Identify individuals on the Selectee List for enhanced screening
  • Facilitate passenger air travel
  • Protect individuals' privacy

After matching passenger information against government watch lists, Secure Flight transmits the matching results back to aircraft operators.
TSA is not requiring individuals to provide other information such as passport information and known redress number (if available) to aircraft operators. However, covered aircraft operators must transmit such information to TSA if it is provided by the passenger. Providing the optional information is beneficial to passengers as it helps ensure they are not misidentified as a person on a watch list.
Secure Flight does NOT assign a score to individuals, use commercial data or predict behavior.


Ensuring the privacy of individuals is a cornerstone of Secure Flight. TSA has developed a comprehensive privacy plan to incorporate privacy laws and practices into all areas of Secure Flight. The program has worked extensively to maximize individual privacy.
In addition to assuring compliance and re-enforcing the Secure Flight commitment to protecting privacy, Secure Flight has created an environment dedicated to guaranteeing a Secure Flight privacy mission that is front and center every day.
The Secure Flight Privacy Program includes:

  • Foundational Privacy Principles: Tenets that underpin and guide all Secure Flight behaviors, requirements, systems and processes;
  • Privacy Organization: Dedicated Privacy Officer and privacy staff, processes and procedures responsible for privacy compliance, assessing Secure Flight privacy risks and for developing and implementing plans to effectively manage those risks;
  • Privacy Policy: Secure Flight privacy policies, procedures, standards and rules of behavior and ways to adhere to them;
  • Systems Development and Security: Administrative, physical and technical safeguards that manage privacy risks throughout the lifecycle of the Secure Flight system;
  • Awareness and Training: Programs to make the Secure Flight organization and its stakeholders, including the traveling public and the airlines, aware of Secure Flight's privacy posture and practices;
  • Monitoring and Compliance: Programs to monitor adherence to statutory and regulatory privacy requirements and Secure Flight's privacy principles, policies, procedures, standards and rules of behavior;
  • Redress and Response: Systems and processes to respond, if needed, to privacy inquiries, issues and incidents; and
  • Privacy Risk Management: Tools and techniques to support Secure Flight privacy risk management.

Personal Information - TSA collects the minimum amount of personal information necessary to conduct effective watch list matching. Furthermore, personal data is collected, used, distributed, stored, and disposed of in accordance with stringent guidelines and all applicable privacy laws and regulations. Secure Flight has published an updated Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) in conjunction with the Final Rule and System of Records Notice (SORN) published in the Federal Register, August 23, 2007 provide detailed information about the program's privacy approach.
TSA does not collect or use commercial data to conduct Secure Flight watch list matching.
TSA's Secure Flight Exemption Rule was published November 9, 2007, in the Federal Register. The Exemption Rule provides the public notice of TSA's decision to exempt the Secure Flight Records system (DHS/TSA 019) from several provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974, as well as the basis for the claimed exemptions. Additionally, the Exemption Rule provides a comprehensive response to public comments received for the Secure Flight Notice of Proposed Rule Making for Privacy Act Exemptions.