Southwest and TSA SecureFlight: Use your one chance wisely


Over the weekend, I updated my Southwest account to include the extra info for the TSA SecureFlight program. The idea is to ensure that the name, date of birth, and gender that you give to the airline match up exactly with your driver’s license, passport, or whatever other identification document you present at the airport. Presumably, this reduces the chance that you’re mistaken for someone else who has the same name, but is on the terrorist watch list.

Dubious benefits of this program aside, I am puzzled by one aspect of how Southwest implemented it. When they ask you to enter the extra data, it says it’s a “one-time” opportunity and you only get “one chance” to update it. Sure enough, once you click Save, there’s no way to edit the info.

Granted, your date of birth can’t change, and I imagine that very few people undergo a sex change that would result in them having a new gender. But the name field presents an issue. What if you get a new ID that lacks your middle name, or just shows a middle initial? What if you start traveling with your passport instead of your driver’s license? Surely there should be a way to update your SecureFlight info.

This is probably an issue with TSA rather than Southwest itself. But I’d really like to see Southwest provide some details about how you can change your info later. Otherwise, I suspect many people will be scared by the apparent permanence of the changes and just skip the process of entering their info — thus defeating the purpose of the program in the first place.