Secure Flight Name Information to Be Used in MileagePlus Profiles From Now On

A United Airlines Boeing 777-200 aircraft on the tarmac in San Francisco in the morning to be used for flight 663 to Honolulu on January 2, 2013. Photograph by FlyerTalk member cxny1090.

Effective as of today, United Airlines will be streamlining the way your name and identification information is requested when booking a flight by asking for only one name, which will be the name which exactly matches the name on your photographic identification — issued by the government of your jurisdiction — with which you will be traveling.
According to FlyerTalk member UA Insider — also known as Aaron Goldberg, who is the senior manager of Customer Experience Planning at United Airlines — this update will not affect reservations which have already been ticketed. Until now, United Airlines has allowed you to provide one name for your reservation — usually, the name on your MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program account — and a different name to be transmitted to the Transportation Security Administration for Secure Flight verification. In the past, these two names did not always need to match. For example, you could be Bob Smith to match the name on your MileagePlus account, but Robert T. Smith for Secure Flight to match your identification officially issued by the government of your jurisdiction.
If you are a MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program member and you have a different name on your MileagePlus account than you have stored for your official identification, United Airlines has taken some steps to help make this change more seamless for you as follows:
  1. If there is a minor variance between your MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program profile and your stored identification —  such as Bob Smith versus Robert T. Smith — United Airlines will automatically update the name on your MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program account to match the name on the identification which United Airlines has stored for you. United Airlines will change it to the name on your identification because the name United Airlines prints on your boarding pass must match the government-issued photographic identification you use when you fly as a passenger.

    Worth noting: If you still want to change the name in your MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program account after the update is done, you may do so — however, the change will need to match a valid photographic identification issued by the government of your jurisdiction. Note that the current process for minor MileagePlus name changes may be done in My Account on the official Internet web site of United Airlines, but more significant changes — for example, changing a last name — are handled through the MileagePlus Service Center and may require proof of identification.

  2. If United Airlines cannot determine a solid match between your names — such as James Timothy Smith on your MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program account and Robert Smith on your identification, for example — you will be asked to choose which name is correct. The next time you log in to, you will be prompted to select from the names provided. If none of the names are correct, you will have the opportunity to enter the name which appears on a government-issued photographic identification and United Airlines will update the name on your MileagePlus account accordingly. Note that making a significant name change in this way is a one-time option, as any future changes will need to go through the traditional process.

You can read more about these changes in your next MileagePlus statement. In the meantime, here are few things to keep in mind:

  • This update will not affect reservations which have already been ticketed. You will still be able to travel even if the ticketed name and the name do not exactly match but are considered acceptable matches — such as Mike versus Michael or J.T. versus John Thomas.
  • Your United Club and 2013 Premier credentials will remain valid — even in the case of significant name changes.
  • If you are a member of a Trusted Traveler program such as Global Entry, make sure your name information there also matches the name on your identification. Matching these are important because they must be the same in case you have also opted-in to the Transportation Security Administration Pre-Check program and you want to be considered for expedited security screening. Unfortunately, there is no way for United Airlines to “see” — much less modify — your Trusted Traveler profile, so it will be up to you to do this.

While the news of this policy change has generally been welcomed by FlyerTalk members, some find it confusing, while others who have variations between Passport and Global Entry names consider this a “terrible change” and wish that the process used until today was left alone.
As for me, the only variations I have ever had with my name is whether or not I use the initial of my middle name. For those of you who do have distinct variations of your name, please do not take this the wrong way, but I honestly never understood the reason why. For example, I know a number of people who use their middle name as their first name. There are times where that can get confusing for me — such as with reserving hotel rooms or booking tickets on airlines when they ask for me to do so — which is why I somewhat sympathize with the position of United Airlines on this issue.
Here are some frequently asked questions answered by UA Insider:

  • How will my name change impact existing reservations? How about Pre-check?
    Where there are minor changes to names — for example, John versus Jonathan — and where middle names and/or initials are added or amended, there is not expected to be any impact to account recognition for accrual and benefits purposes, nor is it anticipated this will impact your Pre-check eligibility.
  • What about Middle Name versus Middle Initial — especially when it is different from one identification to another?
    You are encouraged to always provide your middle name as it appears on the identification you will be presenting for travel and — over time — it is recommended that you update your passport and driver license documents to reflect your name consistently. For the time being, differences in middle name between middle initial and full middle name will be accepted.
  • Is there any way to avoid mashing my names together in my reservations?
    While this will hopefully be corrected in the future, unfortunately the names will continue to be fused together by adding a space where appropriate — for example, between your first name and your middle name.
  • Why would I see multiple identical options? Does it matter which one I pick?
    You may experience cases where there are two profiles from which to choose that are completely identical — despite efforts by United Airlines to filter out these duplicates. It has to do with one of your profiles having a title — such as Mr., Ms, etc. — and the other one not. In these cases, you may pick either one — the result will be the same.
  • My identification does not include a title or suffix. Should I remove this from my MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program account?
    Titles such as Mr., Ms., etc. and suffixes such as Jr., Sr., III, etc. are always recommended — even if they are not on your identification.
  • What do I do if I have a hyphenated name?
    If you have a hyphenated name, you may continue to use a hyphen or space between your names — or you can mash them together. Any of these combinations will work — with respect to Secure Flight, Pre-check and Global Entry. Since the reservations of United Airlines does not include spaces or hyphens in names, your reservation will continue to be created with the two names fused together — regardless of whether you used a space or hyphen in your profile.
  • What if I am given two profile options where the date format is different?
    In cases where you are given the option to choose between date formats — for example, Day/Month/Year versus Month/Day/Year — select the date format that is consistent with your current MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program profile settings.
  • Can I update my Secure Flight information and/or Known Traveler ID to an existing reservation?
    Although this feature is expected to be added this spring, you can make adjustments to your identification information and/or add a Known Traveler number by contacting United Airlines via the telephone in the meantime.

To those of you who do have distinct variations of your name, could you please state why? It is always interesting as to how people determine what their names should be when they do not use their names exactly as they were given to them…

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