I was being silly when purchasing my airline ticket and saw the options to have my name be "Dr. John Doe, PhD", so I went for it. Unfortunately I cannot legitimately claim either of those titles. Thinking over it now, I do not want to get held up by my airline or TSA for not having the same title as on the ticket.

I can't imagine or know how they could require proof to check either of those titles, but I know airport security is taken seriously.

Will I have any issues? Also, is providing a false name prefix or suffix illegal?


I ended up going through TSA and then boarded the plane with no issues. My ticket had my first name, last name, and "PHD". However no one questioned or gave me a second glance when looking at my ticket.

  • 7
    As long as your name matches the name on your ID, false titles are unlikely to cause problems. Since most forms of ID don't include titles, it's hard to see how they'd check. (For example, I could legitimately add "Ph.D." but the only way I could prove it was legit would be to bring my degree certificate, and when did you ever see anyone do that?) Mar 12, 2016 at 4:07
  • Most IDs do not show prefixes or suffixes as you have used. However if you don't look old enough to be a PhD holder, then the airline check in agent might question the validity of the booking. And likewise TSA might also be wondering a bit, since your boarding pass might list you as DOE / JOHN DR not DOE / JOHN MR
    – user13044
    Mar 12, 2016 at 4:08
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    Tell them it hasn't arrived in the mail yet
    – Gayot Fow
    Mar 12, 2016 at 4:56
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    "I can't imagine or know how they could require proof to check either of those titles, but I know airport security is taken seriously." - in some legislations, a doctoral degree can be added to one's ID card. So, that's one way of how they might check in some cases. Whether or not wrongfully claiming to hold the degree is illegal also fully depends on the legislation. Mar 12, 2016 at 14:32
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    On a related note, while the question states "TSA", I would propose adding a "USA" tag to it. Doing the same with a passport from a country that do put PhD titles on passports while taking a flight from such a country may be a totally different thing. I was actually wondering whether that is problematic some time ago...
    – DCTLib
    Mar 22, 2016 at 9:20

4 Answers 4


That is extremely unlikely, since your id doesn't show your title. I am expecting the ability to choose title has much more to do with how they address you in their e-mails.

Also, TSA and equivalent organisations aren't paid to deal with academical fraud.

  • 1
    Correct. I have a PhD and occasionally that information is included when tickets are bought for me. Having Dr Kate Gregory, PhD on my tickets, but no indication of the title in my passport, has never been an issue in a US (or any other) airport. Mar 22, 2016 at 11:51

I have occasionally used PhD on the ticket for my wife (who has one), and Southwest used to print it on the ticket, but she was never asked to prove it. And never got any better service as best as I can tell.

I have been told that in Germany, claiming an unearned degree is a criminal offense.

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    The Germans take it seriously (and print the titles in the passport). But the really serious people are the Austrians. Once I met an Austrian academic with two PhDs on whose business card he had introduced himself as "Professor Doctor Doctor xxx"
    – Calchas
    Mar 12, 2016 at 17:47
  • Indeed, I have seen Professor Doctor Doctor. You can find one of the Nazi election posters from a free (pre-1933) election where they portray the Jews on the opposing slate with ugly, distorted, anti-Semitic caricature photographs, but every one is give his correct title, which in one case was double Doctor. Go figure. Incidentally, the friend who told me about the unearned degree law also advised me that the Germans have a list of which American universities they esteem highly enough to accept PhD on Americans' business cards; otherwise, the card is illegal. Mar 12, 2016 at 18:06
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    @Calchas Germans use “Prof. Dr. Dr.” too where applicable (and things like "Dr. dr. h.c. mult.”!), check their constitutional court, e.g. “Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Susanne Baer, LL.M.”.
    – Relaxed
    Mar 22, 2016 at 6:35

It will have no effect. Most air tickets issued by American carriers don't even include your title anyway (everyone else does though).

There is a small chance the crew might ask you for medical assistance on the flight and then you will have to use that terribly embarrassing line, "I'm not that kind of doctor" (or in your case, "I'm not actually any kind of doctor at all").

Misrepresenting your name may be illegal but I don't suppose anyone will be too worried about it, because no one will find out.

Finally, it is redundant to use both "Dr" and "PhD" in your style, since "PhD" (Philosophiae Doctor) already includes the Latin word for "Dr". Any real PhD will spot your fraud a mile away ;)

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    To your last paragraph: Yes, but in some countries there are more kinds of doctors and you can easily be MUDr. x y PhD., or RNDr. x y PhD. Mar 13, 2016 at 8:44
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    @Vladimir But surely as a matter of style you would choose to chose both prefixes or both suffixes, not mix them up?
    – Calchas
    Mar 13, 2016 at 17:15
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    No, mixing them up is common. Just some person randomly found using google prf.osu.cz/index.php?idc=13346 This is an extreme, but you can see the other colleagues. Mar 13, 2016 at 17:25

The reason for using titles DR and CAPT on flight booking is definitely not to treat you based on your higher level of education or profession. While you are in mid air, 2 kinds of emergencies are expected - Medical and Technical. If any of these emergencies arise, the flight crew can easily locate a doctor or a captain from the passengers manifest and seek expert assistance. Other doctors or captains (if any) may proudly use the title anywhere else but not in a flight booking please.

  • As to DR, this is a pervasive rumor. Some time ago I asked about it over at Aviation.SE and the experts there say it isn't true. If you have contrary evidence (e.g. a specific airline that trains their crew to look for DR on a manifest) then it would be great if you would add an answer over there. Oct 5, 2016 at 12:17
  • As to CAPT, interesting theory. The first airline I found that offered the CAPT title in bookings (British Airways) doesn't have LT, MAJ, GEN, ADM, etc, so that would seem to suggest it's not meant to be the military rank. On the other hand, if it were meant to denote airline captain, wouldn't you expect them to also offer a title for First Officer? They don't. Oct 5, 2016 at 12:23
  • This is not true, it's always volunteers. For example check cnn.com/2015/11/24/health/in-flight-medical-emergencies "2014, we have 90% volunteer by physician or nurse during a medical event". It would be very odd otherwise.
    – user4188
    Oct 5, 2016 at 15:26
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    By this logic, I suppose they have the title "Rev." available so if the plane is about to crash, they can find someone to pray for the passengers? Oct 5, 2016 at 16:19

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