Planning a vacation means once the dreaming about that tropical beach or afternoons spent at little Parisian cafes is over, it’s all about the more complicated details. Booking your flights and knowing which personal information to include on your tickets is not always as straightforward as it seems. Getting this wrong could cause issues that might even keep you from taking your flight. Your ticket reservation must contain your exact name as spelled on your passport or driver’s license. But what about your middle name? Does your middle name need to be on an airline ticket?
Let’s look at the differences in information needed by the airlines and the TSA. Then we’ll talk about adding your personal information when actually booking an airline ticket.
Do I Need My Middle Name on My Airline Ticket?
Understanding Secure Flight Data
Step one is understanding Secure Flight data.
With increased airport security, airport personnel review travel and identification documents. This process includes checking a person’s name, date of birth, and gender information. Verifying accurate names, including middle names, helps avoid misidentification.
Secure Flight data on each passenger is the information airlines are required to collect by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). According to the TSA, “This includes the passenger’s full name as it appears on the non-expired government-issued photo ID, date of birth, gender, and TSA Redress Number, if available.”
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Secure Flight data needs to match what’s on your passport and what information the airlines have on file about you. This includes middle names. Interestingly enough, your airline ticket, however, does not require a middle name.
Passengers are able to clear security without including their middle name on their ticket because the Secure Flight passenger information matches their airline profile or the information on their ticket. Keeping close watch on this information to make sure it matches helps you avoid any issues when you travel.
Ensuring Correct Passenger Information
Step two is making sure you’re using correct passenger information.
Each airline website allows for you to add your secure passenger information. Airline websites usually have a section called My Trips or Manage Your Trip or some such section name.
Once you’ve accessed your reservation, add your full name along with any other requested information to complete this section. There might also be a prompt for you to add your airline frequent flyer number, should you have one. Double check carefully to see that you’ve added the correct secure passenger information to your reservation.
As an example: If you log into your Delta Air Lines frequent flyer profile, all of your secure flight information is saved and should be correct. When you book a flight with Delta Air Lines and don’t include your middle name, it’s fine. Because your airline profile contains all of the correct secure passenger information, not adding your middle name to the ticket won’t matter.
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Benefits of Correct Secure Information Within a Reservation
Do you want TSA PreCheck? According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBT) website, you may not receive TSA PreCheck “if your airline frequent flyer profile and reservation do not have your correct first/middle/last name and correct date of birth”.
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Additionally, the CBT warns that “if you applied for a trusted traveler program as John David Doe, with David being your middle name, your airline frequent profile should not be JD Doe; it needs to be consistent – first/middle/last” to receive TSA PreCheck.
When the TSA agent checks your boarding pass, they are also checking your Secure Flight passenger data. Even though your boarding pass may not match your government-issued ID (i.e. your middle name is not on it), if your passenger information is correct, there will not be a problem.
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Name on Passport and Name on Airplane Ticket
Middle names and initials are not the issue. However, your first and last name must be exactly the same on both your passport and airplane ticket. For instance, if the name on your passport is Robert, do not book the airline ticket as ” Bob”. Do not use a shortened name or nicknames for tickets.
Here’s another point to remember. Maybe you are known by your middle name. Makes no difference what people call you. Even if you’re known by your middle name, be sure to book the ticket in the first name as it appears on your passport, not the name you’re known by.
Do you have a surname that is double-barrelled, with a hyphen? Watch out for how that appears on airline tickets. A friend who has one reports that more often than not his name appears on reservations as one long surname with no hyphen.
Best Practices for Avoiding Any Issues With Names on Airline Tickets
The best practice is deciding whether or not to add your middle name on airline tickets and staying consistent. So let’s say you always add your middle name to your reservation to match with your government-issued photo ID. But you forget to do that on a particular ticket. Access your reservation on the airline’s website and update the passenger information for that ticket.
Often when traveling, we use multiple airlines. If you’re flying on more than one airline, access your reservation on each airline’s website and update your passenger information.
Another best practice is setting up a frequent flyer account with the airline and adding your correct secure passenger information to your profile. When you book a ticket with that airline in the future and add that frequent flyer number, the passenger information will be added automatically to your reservation.
If you currently have a frequent flyer account, make sure the information saved in your profile is correct.
Including your middle name upfront, even though it’s not required, does mean that your ticket information matches your government-issued ID. This is a simple step that can prevent any issues when you fly.
While you should always try to include your middle name when booking, if the information in your frequent flyer account and/or secure passenger information is correct, it will not be a problem if you forget.
Airline Reservations and Middle Names: Other Steps To Take To Avoid Issues
If you’re booking an airline reservation through a travel agent, double-check that the name sequence you give matches your identification documents.
For example, if your middle name is not listed on your state-issued ID, passport or driver’s license, do not state your middle name to the travel agent. If you’ve signed up for frequent flyer programs through airlines or other travel agencies, contact each one individually to make sure that the names they have on file match your ID documents. Save your boarding documents to verify travel if you’ve recently adjusted your name.
Can Adding Your Middle Name to an Airline Ticket be Risky?
Perhaps. The name fields on an airline ticket are first/last. Including your middle name increases the chance of an error. To a certain extent it depends on your name. Also, if an error occurs, there might be a change fee to change a name on an airline ticket.
Using titles can present problems as well. Titles are not recorded on passports. If you travel for business, sometimes it’s required. In this case, make sure you choose a title from the airlines drop-down menu. Avoid manually typing it in.
If you are booking a reservation by phone and have an unusual name, spell it. Have the booking agent repeat it back to you. I have one of those first names that’s always misspelled, so I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. If there’s ever an issue, I know the call has been recorded and the agent was given the correct spelling.
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Some people might warn against providing your middle name on plane tickets. This is not because it is unnecessary. It’s because there is more of a chance it could cost you in both time and money. That’s certainly one way to think about it. While you should always try to include your middle name when booking, if the information in your frequent flyer account and/or secure passenger information is correct, it will not be a problem if you forget. Even if you forget to put your middle name in when booking your ticket, chances are there will be no issues when flying. When it comes to your name and booking flights, always, always confirm, and then confirm again.
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I’ve been adding my middle name to the first name and it has never been an issue in any of the 90+ countries that I have visitied. For example if my name is Mark Roberts Smith (not my real name), I’ve been entering it as First Name: MarkRoberts, Last Name: Smith. I figured, if everything is there, then there won’t be an issue…it has never been an issue.
Thanks so much for this data point, John, and thanks for reading. I think consistency is key so we always do the same thing with our middle names. Just keeps things simple.
Have you ever flown with delta? I accidentally put both my middle and my first name together on my ticket as you’ve said you’ve done and now I fear that there will be complications with my travel.
Superb post. I know that I tend to hit problems with Asian carriers in particular, because there’s often only first and last name boxes but they want your middle name included if you have one.
Thanks, Christian! Different airlines do have their preferences, for sure. Listing airlines and their requirements would have made this a huge post 🙂
Oh, I wasn’t criticizing at all. More just a personal observation.
Yes, I know. No worries. Sorry, I was just making a joke 🙂
JR is a big issue with me. Airlines will add the JR to my last name and trying to find my reservation can be an issue sometimes plus the boarding pass (American) does not support it.
Great point, John. I hadn’t thought of this, so thanks for bringing up the JR issue. I can see how that would be a hassle to deal with.
Girlfriend has GE, never an issue. Checked in to a WN flight and we were checking bags. Woman at counter said her middle name wasn’t on her reservation so she would “change it this once so we didn’t run into problems.”
Funny thing, to date, she’s been the only problem we’ve ever had in 9 years of flying, including international.
I guess sometimes it really is up to the airline. You had a proactive agent, for sure. Good to hear no other issues in all the years of flying. Thanks for reading and taking the time to share your experience.
In speaking with a supervisor at Alaska Airlines’s partner award desk, I was informed that a middle name must actually appear on the ticket itself (not just the secure file) when booking awards on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines and that those airlines have been known to deny boarding when the names on the ticket and the passport do not match exactly. Alaska also cannot change the name on CX awards once the ticket has been issued without actually canceling the ticket first.
Thanks so much for taking the time to post this information, Michael. Much appreciated. Always good to know specific airline procedural rules and what they can and can’t do.
Hello, I have my middle name on my passport, but on my government’s ID don’t have middle name only first and last name. Will it make any issues if I travel with it ? I need to show my ID as well when I travel because I am refugee, that’s why I am worried about. Thanks you.
Hi Ali, I cannot answer your question as to whether issues will arise. I do hope your travels go smoothly, though.
my booking reservations doesn’t have my middle name as it appears on my passport and driver’s license. Will this be a problem when I check in?
Hi Pamela, I can’t answer this question for you because I am not the airline. Maybe call the airline and check with them. Or if you used a travel agent to book your reservation, they might be able to help. Hope you won’t have any issues upon checking in.
Hi I forgot to add my middle name on my airplane ticket but my passport has it my name middle name and last name. Would be it problem ?
Hi Ecem, I can’t answer that question for you. If you have any worries at all, contact the airline. They are the best source of information for you!
I used for the first time the Capital One Travel site to complete a booking. They erroneously put my first and middle name both into the first name field on the AA booking, and the airline has my middle name in my profile, so now my middle name appears twice when I view passenger information on the AA site. Same with my husband. Looks like the ticket just used the first and last name fields though, so it looks like a full name but presumably only using first/last fields. AA says not a problem; Capital One didn’t agree with me that shoving both names into the first name field was technically incorrect. There’s no way to email a tech complaint/suggestion to CO you have to call them, so I’m punting for now. But beware of this is you use CO. Really should have just used the AA site but I figured I’d try this out. Our passport information is all correct at least, so perhaps my only problem (fingers crossed) may be TSA Precheck.
Thanks for sharing your experience using Capital One Travel, Liza. It will help others navigate their bookings. Fingers crossed no issues arise during your trip!
[…] Middle names and initials are not the issue. However, your first and last name must be exactly the same on both your passport and airplane ticket. Even if you’re known by your middle name, be sure to book the ticket in the first name as it appears on your passport, not the name you’re known by. via […]