recently I had a booking and my name being so long, one thing lead to another and the operators had to make changes in the booking. That lead me to this question. I've also seen many posts all over travel forums about first name issues, middle name issues, name not matching the passport etc etc. This name issue is pretty mess to me all the time because my name overflows.

I kind of feel like putting too much weight on name match on flight tickets can be reduced if we can verify a person by just the passport number (Or travel document number) and cutting off name completely. I find couple of advantages for using a number without using names.

Passport/Travel document number is a single unique key for every person. Customers need not to worry about filling multiple names and reduce errors. Names can be same for two customers. I know this is a small one but it will reduce usage of ink if the names are omitted on a ticket and only the passport number is printed.

Is there any legal aspect for this? Or is it a traditional thing coming along since the beginning of air travel and hard or too late to change?

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    Entering strings of digits is a very error-prone operation. If passport number were used alone, how would you deal with errors? – Patricia Shanahan Jul 14 at 12:24
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    Also, passport numbers will be changed when passport is renewed – Anish Sheela Jul 14 at 12:27
  • Passport numbers are about 10 digits max. Lot shorter than a name and higher chance to mistype a character. Yes but on the other hand, it's easy to figure out a name with a misspelled letter from a long name rather than a number from a digit.. – Blogger Jul 14 at 12:36
  • Same reason websites make you type city and state/county/department/province when they can fill it in automatically from the postal code. Same reason tax prep programs make you type all kinds of _unimportan_t details from your W-2 when the IRS already has all the info (and then they compare it to the IRS info and complain about typos). – WGroleau Jul 14 at 17:09
  • Why ask such a question? The local bus system is OK with me just paying the fare and not identifying myself in any way at all. Why do they need to know my name? Why does the airline need to know who I am? – emory Jul 14 at 21:14

What would you do if your passport were lost or stolen between the time you made the booking and the flight, of if you had to replace it for another reason?

Passport/Travel document number is a single unique key for every person.

That is not correct. The number is supposed to identify the document uniquely, so each person may have several passport numbers over the course of his or her lifetime.

  • I see. So names are needed for redundancy.. – Blogger Jul 14 at 12:31
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    @Blogger In my experience it's traditionally been only name; passport details have been recorded only at checkin. In the last few years airlines have begin to ask for passport numbers earlier, but I don't think I've ever encountered one that required a passport number at the time of booking or purchasing the ticket. – phoog Jul 14 at 12:39
  • But that document number correctly maps to a specific person. So that's correct.. – Blogger Jul 14 at 12:39
  • Hmm. Even when I want to retrieve a booking, I've to enter name most of the time along with booking ID. Not the passport number.. – Blogger Jul 14 at 12:41
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    @Blogger the combination of passport number and issuing country should uniquely identify a person, but it is not a "single" unique identifier for a person. – phoog Jul 14 at 12:41

Airlines have two reasions why they want to know their customer:

  • They want to know with whom they are entering contracts. A person who has been disruptive before might have a new passport with a new number.
  • Destination states insist on being told in advance, and they will fine airlines which fail to cooperate.

Among other things, APIS demands the full name, so it would be pointless to use anything less for internal purposes.

  • And #3: they don't want you to be able to sell economy tickets that you don't use. Not without paying a fee at least. – vidarlo Jul 15 at 12:50
  • @vidarlo, that would be handled easily by listing the passport number without the name, as the original poster suggested. – o.m. Jul 15 at 16:36

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