Stuck On The No Fly List? Use Your Middle Name Instead

If you find yourself mistakenly on the terrorism no-fly or government watch lists and always get hassled at the airport, there’s a simple way to avoid the trouble: use your middle name when you buy your tickets. It’s certainly a lot easier than trying to use the Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP), which was set up to help people get off the no fly lists if they’re on there by mistake. Passengers complain that TRIP is slow to respond to requests and it doesn’t stop them from still getting taken aside for secondary screenings much more than other passengers. It’s a good thing the terrorists will never figure out this amazing and advanced alternate name technique.

When Your Name Is Mud at the Airport [WSJ]
(Photo: Ben Popken)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Tank says:

    “It’s a good thing the terrorists will never figure out this amazing and advanced alternate name technique.”

    not til they read this anyway

  2. digitalhen says:

    funny, i was having a conversation with my girlfriend this morning about the benefits of having a middle name.

    case in point.

  3. selianth says:

    How does that work, having your ticket use your middle name, if your photo ID only shows your first name & middle initial? Yes my passport has my middle name, but if I’m flying domestically I’m not bringing my passport to use as ID at the airport security line.

  4. @selianth: My drivers license has my full name…

    I guess you would have to use a different form of ID at that point.

    I’m thinking that if you were on the no-fly list and got hassled every time you flew, you would go ahead and use your passport for convenience sake…

  5. scoosdad says:

    Oops, I know someone with the same name (first and last) specifically mentioned in the WSJ article. Time to send him a link to the article. He hasn’t flown for awhile and might be in for a surprise.

  6. madrigal says:

    My boss has a hyphenated last name. When I book domestic flights for her, I have to use her husband’s last name for her because her driver’s license just lists that. She has trouble in the past if the ticket has been booked with the hyphenated name even if her husband’s last name is the second half.

  7. missdona says:

    @selianth: My husband commonly uses his middle name and a lot of his credit cards, prescriptions etc. use it.

    When I book our plane tickets I put his first and middle in the first name blank, even though his drivers license shows first name and middle initial. He never has a problem checking in that way.

  8. jamesdenver says:

    A possible downside to this is that you may not be able to easily check in at the kiosks. (That is if you don’t print your boarding pass online)

    The kiosks read your name from a credit card or ID. They may not match “Elvis Aaron Presley” to “Aaron Presley,” requiring a trip to the check in counter.

    This happened while traveling with a friend. Last name spelled wrong – and added 20 minutes in line.

  9. B says:

    To bad my middle name is Terrorist.

  10. Pasketti says:

    I’d really like to know how many people that are legitimately on the list get caught by the screening.

    If the only people they catch are the false positives, then what’s the point of doing it in the first place?

  11. clevershark says:

    @Pasketti: “I’d really like to know how many people that are legitimately on the list get caught by the screening.”

    You’d better believe that the moment authorities catch even ONE GUY legitimately on the list, they’ll be all over the news channel to tell the public about it.

  12. jaredharley says:

    @Tank: “It’s a good thing the terrorists will never figure out this amazing and advanced alternate name technique.”

    not til they read this anyway

    We all know terrorists can’t read English…

  13. misterlivingston says:

    So if I use my middle name they won’t care about the bomb in my pocket?

  14. Syrenia says:

    @selianth: For years now I’ve always travelled with my passport even on domestic flights because it’s bigger and seems harder to lose. A few months ago, a friend gave her driver’s license as ID and the airline counter agent dropped it behind the counter. They couldn’t get the license back and she had to go through the extra security. (And get a new DL.) I guess I wasn’t being paranoid after all.

    Also re another comment about kiosks and names, my credit card is issued under first initial + last name, and I’ve never had any trouble checking in.

  15. jamesdenver says:


    durka durka muhammad jihad…

  16. MercuryPDX says:

    @B: Which would really suck if your first name was Ima.

  17. MercuryPDX says:

    @clevershark: So then they haven’t caught anyone yet… ;)

  18. WayDownRiver says:

    Anyway, it’s Elvis Aron Presley.

  19. homerjay says:

    @misterlivingston: They’d probably think you’re just happy to see them. :)

  20. mysterious1der says:

    “Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program” eh?

    So that would be the Homeland STRIP ??? Nice

  21. arby says:

    @syrenia: They couldn’t get the license back? Ever? If that’s true, they damn well better have given your friend a free flight or some significant compensation. On top of the enormous hassle of having to replace it and not having a valid form of ID, I wonder whether taking/effectively destroying someone’s driver’s license might be a criminal offense.

  22. PinkBox says:

    I’ve gone by my middle name since birth… so yeah, it is possible.

  23. snoop-blog says:

    @B: damnit B, you beat me to it! nice one!

  24. howie_in_az says:

    Surely the millions (billions, with a ‘B’?) of taxpayer dollars being poured into the Ministry of Homeland Security to fund projects like CAPS/CAPS2 aren’t all in vain. Surely there’s more to defeating such a robust system than simply using a middle name. Maybe this method could also provide an easy-out to those trapped in Guantanamo. “Oh, you’re looking for Mohammed JIHAD McTerrorist. I’m Mohammed JOHNSON McTerrorist. No, no, it’s ok — honest mistake. Happens all the time, really.

    This whole thing reminds me of the Python version of the Spanish Inquisition.

    Talk, will you talk, damn you!
    But it hurts!
    Oh, well then loosen it up a bit.

    I was laughing about this until I realized I helped pay for it.

  25. FLConsumer says:

    ABOLISH THE TSA. Simple, efficient, and it’d work. Going by the statistics, we’re no safer with them than we were before them. And I don’t know of anyone who would miss them.

  26. mkguitar says:

    One of my Pals, Francis Alan XXXXX has always used Alan as his name.

    We were flying internatioanlly he was denied boarding…his ticket said Alan XXXXX his passport said Francis Alan XXXXX.

    Our employer had to purchase another ticket as Francis Alan XXXXX

    His photo matched, he produced his TX DL F. Alan XXXXX, his credit cards say Alan XXXXX

    The security team was not able to process this information.

    It’s all a joke- which we all know.


  27. Tracy Ham and Eggs says:

    @mkguitar: I go by my middle name. Its on all my credit cards for that reason (First Middle Last). I still have to book flights under my first name or I wind up with problems. I think the key in this story is to book first and middle, that way it can differentiate.

    For general information and entertainment. COMPUSA used to proctor the TSAs first round of screening exams for new employees.

  28. ARP says:

    @Tank: This annoys me when people say, “you’re giving them ideas” to even the most simple things. It also provides very convenient political cover not to disclose anything.

    These guys simultaneously boarded four planes and rammed them into three buildings (and tried for a fourth). They coordinated money, visas, renting houses, pilot training, false identities and countless other details.

    Do you honestly think it hasn’t crossed any of their minds since then to use other/fake names or identities?

  29. Parting says:

    While working at a local airport, heard about a business traveler, who’s name, last name and birthday were the same as a wanted pedophile. Since he lived in our city, local security came to know him. However, each time he had to travel somewhere else, was a hell for him. He had to prove he’s not a wanted criminal, and occasionally, he was strip searched. Pretty horrible situation, for someone who’s job depends on traveling.

  30. starrion says:

    This system probably won’t stop a genuine terrorist either. Most of the jihadi who would be the ones carrying out a mission would most likely be completely unknown to a monolithic dinosaur like the TSA. So if they happened to use an alias that we were aware of then they might get stopped. But given how many of the common names like Mohammed and Ali are used so frequently in the Muslim world, the likelyhood that flagging one of them would result in a terrorist capture would be close to nil.

  31. inelegy says:

    I did this “middle name” trick, but since my middle name is “Hussein-bin-Laden-Adolf-Cruella-de-Vil” it strangely had the opposite effect.

  32. Tonguetied says:

    Yeah, I’m not clear on how you’re supposed to use your middle name. Is it in place of your first name or in addition to it?

    My middle name could be a first name but my son’s middle name is more of a last name.

  33. missbheave (is not convinced) says:

    Doesn’t say much for the effectiveness of the no fly list if you can just use your middle name to get around it…

  34. CurbRunner says:

    Seems like this could actually trigger more attention and trouble for you at a TSA security checkpoint.
    I don’t see how using your middle name instead of your last name would square up with the fact that you need your credit/debit card to book the flight and that has your last name. All of that info is then transfered to your boarding pass/ticket which has to be shown to TSA to board the flight. You also have to show your full name on a passport to board international flights.

  35. K-Bo says:

    @CurbRunner: Instead of your first name

  36. Syrenia says:

    @arby: I don’t know if the could have done — it sounded like a crevice just large enough to eat a driver’s license in a cabinet that was probably not adjustable. In any case, they certainly made no offer to try. My friend said that it seemed like she wasn’t the first person they had done this to. Ever mindful of the general attitude of airline staff — if you question our perfection we will have you arrested — she didn’t press the issue. She was on her way home and just had the one flight to catch.

  37. CurbRunner says:

    @K-Bo: @K-Bo: The article we’re all responding to here about using your middle name, instead of your first name, has a misleading, bogus headline, with a link to an article that OFFERS NO EXAMPLES WHERE IT HAS EVER WORKED OR THAT IT EVER WOULD WORK.

    I still don’t see how even the first step in getting a flight on a plane (your ticket purchase credit card transaction) could be completed without a full name, as it is shown on the card and has to match the credit card companies data base. My middle initial, like most other peoples’, is on my card, not my middle name.
    I believe I read somewhere that those airline ticket purchases are now tied into a Homeland Security data base. Everything else, including your ticket and boarding pass would have to match the full name on your passport or other picture ID for example at the TSA airport checkpoints.
    Not only that, but when you present only your partial name to the immigration and customs officials upon your arrival in a foreign country (assuming TSA didn’t catch the discrepancy before your departure), you may then run the risk of not being able to leave their jurisdiction until it’s cleared up. You’re on their turf and their rules at that point.

  38. krunk4ever says:

    Isn’t this a blatant example of knowingly falsifying information. When purchasing the ticket, it specifically asks for your first/last name. I see it as a much higher offense than being on the TRIP list…

  39. forgottenpassword says:

    Once they figure out you used your middle name instead of your regular name….. I see you getting tackled & tased by airport security (and possibly an air marshal) & then dragged off to an airport interrogation room trussed up like a christmas goose.

    The point being that they are going to be VERY suspicious of you for using part of your name that ISN’T on a no-fly list & are going to be treating you like a potential terrorist that has tried to fool them.

  40. WV.Hillbilly says:

    I always use my middle name. My driver’s license uses a middle inital. I have never been questioned about it by TSA or the airlines. Never.