Air travelers now must provide birthdates, TSA says

Travelers will now be asked to give their birthdate and gender when booking flights, along with a full name matching their ID, as part of a federal security initiative.

The new requirements are part of a Transportation Security Administration program aimed at improving security and reducing misidentification of people on terrorist watch lists.

TSA said the Secure Flight program is a “behind-the-scenes” watch-list matching process that happens before a passenger arrives at the airport, so security checkpoint procedures shouldn’t change.

Small differences between names on IDs and tickets should not be a problem in the near future, according to TSA.

The Secure Flight program is being implemented in phases, with the next phase starting Saturday. Delta Air Lines and AirTran Airways, the two largest carriers in Atlanta, both said they will now collect the new data.

Other airlines’ passengers may not be asked to provide the additional information immediately.

The agency’s goal is to vet all passengers on domestic airline flights by early 2010 and all passengers on international airline flights into, out of or over the United States by the end of 2010, shifting responsibility for matching passenger manifests to terrorist watch lists from airlines to TSA.

Back in May, airlines started asking passengers to provide their full name when booking flights. Some, including AirTran, have already invited passengers to add a birthdate and gender to frequent flier profiles.

Delta said passengers who have run into problems with watch lists and got redress numbers from TSA can also provide that information.