Your SkyMiles account, your ID and the TSA

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Several years ago when my wife and I were still newlyweds and checking in for our return flight home from Sweden the agent suddenly discovered a problem. My wife’s passport was issued in her maiden name, but the award ticket she was traveling on was issued in her married name. The agent said this was not the same person and said my wife could not fly! Fortunately, my wife had had her passport amended to her married name and it became a simple matter of showing the agent the last page in the passport and then all was well. What if you accidentally misspelled your own name on your skymiles account and didn’t notice until after a ticket had been issued? What could you do? It might surprise you to find out that most of these sorts of problems have been alleviated with the advent of TSA’s Secure Flight program.

In the past airlines didn’t necessarily bother to check that the name you gave for a passenger’s ticket matched the identification that passenger would use to board the flight. In fact, as long as you had a boarding pass in hand, you just walked out to the tarmac and on the plane! Airline security has come a long way from the 1960’s and will undoubtedly continue to change in the future. It’s truly amazing how quickly we adapt. Did you ever see a “life insurance dispenser” in those old days of travel or see TV adds like the Miami go go one?

You might think that it makes little difference how your name appears in your skymiles account, and for the most part, as long as it’s accurate, you’re right! Filling in a middle name is optional, and you might consider omitting this information or going with just an initial. Why? Well, as a reader recently pointed out, if your full name is longer it might be abbreviated and the abbreviations are sometimes, well, interesting. My wife formerly had her middle name on her skymiles account but when she noticed her name printed on her boarding passes as “LisaMich” she had it changed to omit the middle name entirely. If your last name has a space or a hyphen you might want to verify that both spouses have it spelled the same if possible, and it’s usually best to leave the space out as the prefix to the name often becomes your new middle name instead. This can also result in you and your spouse being assigned seats apart from one another if the names don’t match up. Lastly, using the prefix of Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. or Miss can also sometimes alter your name as it sometimes becomes fused with the first name. Delta makes it fairly easy now to change your name on your skymiles account and update your personal info online. You have to be logged into your skymiles account to make changes here, or you can access to your itinerary where you can make changes to Secure Flight info here.

What if you find yourself at the airport without your ID for whatever reason – can you still fly? I’m guessing most of you are already saying “No” without a second thought! Obviously if you’re traveling internationally you have to have your passport. Interestingly, TSA says there may be exceptions they can make and the fact that “Not having an ID, does not necessarily mean a passenger won’t be allowed to fly”.

Like I always say, if you want to play you have to know the rules. We’ve all adjusted to the new reality of flying nowadays with liquid restrictions, scanners and shuffling through the line in our stocking feet. Sometimes it’s good to take a look back and see the positive aspects of the changes we can appreciate! – René

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  1. “Not having an ID, does not necessarily mean a passenger won’t be allowed to fly”.

    The TSA actually have no legal authority to stop you boarding without an ID. If you show up without ID you will go through an enhanced screening process but still be allowed to board, assuming the additional screening doesn’t reveal anything suspicious.

    The Travel and Document ID Checks section of the TSA’s Screening Management Standard Operating Procedure Manual states “Individuals who appear to be 18 years of age or older with a valid travel document, but without an ID, or in possession of an invalid ID, must be designated and screened as a selectee.” (A “Selectee” is the TSA name for someone selected for enhanced screening).


  2. I have been a skymiles member for many years. My legal first name is Katherine but for some reason I put the name “Kathy” on the form (probably my husband– I would never do this). It has come up a couple of times when flying Delta but never been a real problem. I would like to get it fixed but I have called Delta and they say it can’t be corrected to my legal name. Why? I always fly domestic so this may be why I don’t have any problems.

  3. when I travel for work, my middle initial is attached to my first name on boarding passes. I am just waiting for some TSA person to say my name doesn’t match.

  4. I agree with Matt. I accidentally showed up without an ID for a southwest flight last year. TSA didn’t have an issue with this. Southwest requested some proof of where I live, like a utility bill or a personal check with my home address on it. I thankfully had the latter with me and was allowed in.

  5. The article is wrong on one point. You cannot change the name on your skymiles account online. That field cannot be edited in the online form. Instructions say you must call to change the name on the account.

  6. @Jay – Keep in mind this post is 4 years old. What could be done then has changed from today. You need to fax or mail in name change requests to Delta now.

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