ALEXANDRIA, VA – With the announcement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of new, final, Secure Flight regulations, ASTA was pleased to note that many of the extensive comments it had filed regarding the proposed rule, were acted upon favorably in the final rule. This rule shifts pre-departure, watch-list, matching responsibilities from individual airlines to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
“ASTA was able to favorably influence TSA’s plans for how groups are booked so that Secure Flight will not impact how groups are booked. There were major accomplishments made here, which is just part of what ASTA does for its members, fights for their rights,” said ASTA president and CEO, Chris Russo.
Among some of the requests ASTA made of DHS in this ruling, included that Secure Flight will not alter the way group space is blocked. Reservations may be accepted without all of the Secure Flight information, but airlines may not request a boarding pass approval from TSA until the information is in the PNR. ASTA also was in favor of a public-awareness campaign to educate the traveling public of the new requirements. ASTA has offered to assist the government in assuring that the messages in the campaign are framed in language that will help both consumers and travel agents understand what is required.
ASTA asked TSA to make clear that the collected information was for purposes of Secure Flight watch-list matching only and could not be so used. The explanation of the rule issued by TSA says that “TSA will … instruct covered aircraft operators to appropriately safeguard the data related to Secure Flight.” ASTA is continuing to pursue this explanation for clarification.
It is important to note that ASTA’s requests were also met with the extension of the implementation schedule from 60 days to about 270 days. Agents with client, electronic profiles containing the Secure Flight information will not have to ask for it repetitively for each booking; they can just pre-populate the PNR with the stored information. Travel agents will not be required to record refusals to answer the Secure Flight questions, but if they do record it, they can do so in any way they choose.
ASTA will continuously monitor the implementation of Secure Flight and provide members with updates and practical suggestions as to how to deal with the program as efficiently as possible. ASTA members will find a detailed question-and-answer treatment of the new rules here
The mission of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge, and the enhancement of professionalism. ASTA seeks a retail, travel marketplace that is profitable and growing and a rewarding field in which to work, invest, and do business.