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Secure Flight Program

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Secure Flight Overview

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Secure Flight is a behind the scenes program that enhances the security of domestic and international commercial air travel through the use of improved watch list matching. By collecting additional passenger data, it will improve the travel experience for all airline passengers, including those who have been misidentified in the past.

When passengers travel, they will be required to provide the following Secure Flight Passenger Data (SFPD) to their airline when making a reservation:

The airline will transmit this information to Secure Flight, who uses it to perform watch list matching. This serves to prevent individuals on the No Fly List from boarding an aircraft and to identify individuals on the Selectee List for enhanced screening. After matching passenger information against government watch lists, Secure Flight transmits the matching results back to airlines.

Dates of Implementation

Airlines must request and collect full name, date of birth, and gender, and Redress Number (if available) as of August 15, 2009 for domestic flights and as of October 31, 2009 for international flights. However, Secure Flight will be phased-in with each airline. Passengers should not be concerned if particular airlines do not ask them to provide the additional information right away; it should not impact their travel.

Top Secure Flight Questions

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. What information will be collected by Secure Flight?
A. When fully implemented, Secure Flight will require all airlines to provide a passenger's name as it appears on the government issued ID they plan to travel with, date of birth, gender, and redress number (if available).

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. 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.

Due to difference in boarding pass systems, 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. You should ensure that the name provided when booking your travel matches the government ID that you will use when traveling. Small differences between the passenger's ID the passenger's reservation information, and the boarding pass (such as the use of a middle initial instead of a full middle name or no middle name/initial at all, hyphens or apostrophes) should not cause a problem for the passenger.

Q. Why is Secure Flight collecting this information?
A. TSA determined that mandating the provision of the additional data elements of date of birth and gender would greatly reduce the number of passengers misidentified as a match to the watch list. It is to the passenger's advantage to provide the required data elements as doing so may prevent delays or inconveniences at the airport, particularly for those individuals who have been misidentified in the past.

Q. What happens if my airline didn't ask for any of that information?
A. 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. How do I know if I am on the No Fly list?
A. If a passenger successfully obtains a boarding pass, his/her name is not on the No-Fly list. If a passenger feels they have been misidentified, redress is an opportunity to seek resolution and avoid future delays. The affected passengers often have the same or a similar name to someone on the watch list. Any passenger who believes he/she has been delayed or denied boarding; delayed or denied entry into the U.S. at a port of entry; or been subject to enhanced screening or inspection may seek redress through the DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) at DHS TRIP provides a single portal for travelers to seek redress for adverse screening experiences and to resolve possible watch list misidentification issues.

Program background
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 airlines. Secure Flight will conduct passenger watch list matching for all domestic and international passengers traveling on covered 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 airlines.

By assuming watch list matching responsibilities from the airlines, TSA:

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How it Works

Under the Secure Flight program, passengers making a reservation are required to provide their full name (as it appears on the identification document used when traveling), date of birth, and gender. TSA matches this information against government watch lists to:

After matching passenger information against government watch lists, Secure Flight transmits the matching results back to airlines.
Passenger, Airlines, and Secure Flight workflow chart

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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 its 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:

  1. Foundational Privacy Principles: Tenets that underpin and guide all Secure Flight behaviors, requirements, systems and processes
  2. Privacy Organization: Dedicated Privacy Officer and privacy staff, processes, and procedures responsible for privacy compliance, for assessing Secure Flight privacy risks, and for developing and implementing plans to effectively manage those risks
  3. Privacy Policy: Secure Flight privacy policies, procedures, standards, and rules of behavior as well as ways to adhere to them
  4. Systems Development and Security: Administrative, physical, and technical safeguards that manage privacy risks throughout the lifecycle of the Secure Flight system
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. Redress and Response: Systems and processes to respond, if needed, to privacy inquiries, issues and incidents
  8. 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 according to 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 to 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.

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What Laws Require Secure Flight?

Section 4012(a) of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) required DHS to assume from airlines the comparison of passenger information to the Selectee and No Fly Lists and to use all appropriate records in the consolidated and integrated watch list that the federal government maintains. The final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (9/11 Commission Report) recommended that the watch list matching function "should be performed by TSA and it should utilize the larger set of watch lists maintained by the federal government."

Secure Flight published its Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) in August 2007. From August 2007 through November 21, 2007, TSA accepted comments from the public and industry on the NPRM. TSA considered these comments while modifying the Final Rule. The Secure Flight Final Rule was published on October 28, 2008, and went into effect on December 29, 2008.

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