Always Run Into TSA Issues? Here's Why You Need To Know What A Redress Number Is

On any given day, it's estimated that the Federal Aviation Administration will provide service to nearly 3 million passengers. Keeping those passengers safe is also the responsibility of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This agency oversees around 440 federalized airports and screens approximately 1.4 million checked items and 5.5 million carry-on items daily.

Achieving these numbers is no small task. If you travel frequently, there's a chance you've come to expect that you might be subject to a random TSA search once in a while. However, there are some passengers who find themselves on the receiving end of extra inspections and checks in a nearly guaranteed fashion.

There are several reasons passengers can become the regular focus of extra security screenings. One that travelers often overlook is the name on their ticket. Booking your ticket in your own name seems innocent enough, but it can be a huge hassle if you happen to share a name with someone who is also on the TSA's watch list.

No, you can't do much about your given name. However, applying for a redress number can help you move beyond the security issues that have become an inherent part of your travel experience. Not to be confused with a Known Traveler Number associated with Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, a redress number is its own form of travel identification you can apply for that might be worth your while.

Understanding the value of a redress number

A redress number is an identifying government number passengers can apply for that's issued by the Department of Homeland Security. While this is also the agency that issues Known Traveler Numbers, it's important to keep in mind that these are not the same and are not interchangeable while traveling. A redress number is considered a case number that makes it clear to TSA officials while you're checking in for a flight that you are not the same individual as they have listed on their watch list.

Acquiring a redress number can take some time and effort. That said, it can really help cut down on the multiple security stops you might face when you happen to share a name with a watch-listed individual. These added screenings can be stressful which can also damper your travel experiences significantly.

There are a variety of common issues that can occur when a passenger shares a name with someone on the TSA watch list and doesn't have a redress number in place. These can include secondary screenings at customs or experiencing delays in printing boarding passes from airline kiosks. More severe issues can include being denied boarding when you reach the gate, or being denied entrance into another country upon arrival. When avoiding these scenarios is a priority, a redress number is the best solution.

How to apply and what to expect

Sharing the same name as a TSA watch-list passenger can make travel complicated. Applying for a redress number is refreshingly straightforward. To acquire a case number, you'll head over to the Department of Homeland Security's Traveler Redress Inquiry Program online.

After answering qualifying questions, you'll be prompted to create a Department of Homeland Security account. Once your account is established, you can expect to receive login information specific to a redress file. As you're going through the process of applying for your redress number online, you'll want to be sure to have your passport and driver's license handy. It's also important to have the dates and times of excessive security screening experiences well-documented.

Once the application is completed, you can submit it through your Department of Homeland Security account and wait on a final decision. When the status of your application reads "closed" it means your redress number has been approved or denied. If it's approved, you'll be able to access it within the acceptance letter online.

Do keep in mind that there's no guaranteed timeline for receiving a redress number approval. Once you do receive a redress number, the most effective way to put its benefits to work is to use it every time you make an airline booking. This communicates to the airlines directly, before you even reach the airport, that you've been through the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program and have credentials in place to bypass excessive security stops.