Airlines Profiting from TSA Rules
Before 9/11, airlines and security personnel—and I use the term “security personnel” loosely—might have let a nickname or even a maiden name on a ticket slide. No longer. If you have the wrong name on your ticket, you’re probably grounded. And there are two reasons for this: security and greed.
The Transportation Security Administration wants to be sure the same person who bought the ticket, and who was screened, is boarding the plane. But when there’s an inexact match, the airline can either charge a $100 “change” fee or force you to buy a new ticket. In an industry where every dollar counts, the exact-name rule is the government’s gift to cash-starved air carriers.
That’s the situation Gordon was confronted with, even when it was obvious that “Jan” and “Janet” were one and the same. There were suggestions that a new ticket might need to be purchased. “We didn’t let it get to that,” he recalls. Instead, he asked to speak with a supervisor who could finally fix the codes so that the ticket and passport matched up. How did all of this happen in the first place? Turns out Jan Gordon had signed up for a frequent flier account under her informal name, so when she booked an award ticket, it also used her informal—and inaccurate—name.
There are two things to get pissed off about here. One, the airlines profiting off a TSA rule. And two, a TSA rule that requires them to ignore what is obvious.
EDITED TO ADD (5/28): To add some more detail here, the rule makes absolutely no sense. If this were sensible, the TSA employee who checks the ticket against the ID would make the determination if the names were the same. Instead, the passenger is forced to go back to the airline who, for a fee, changes the name on the ticket to match the ID. This latter system is no more secure. If anything, it’s less secure. But rules are rules, so it’s what has to happen.