Says, the Travel Nazi.
That’s right. Your birthday. Woo-hoo and happy birthday to you. I promise it’s not so I can steal your identity, or note a calendar reminder to send you an e-card. It’s not just that you were born, grew and could travel either – although that works fairly well.
The truth is, it’s a new TSA rule mandating a date of birth in all airline reservations. A requirement for travel agents, and airlines to obtain, before a passenger gets to the airport. To speed up the security process, avoid strip search, and identify more of the watched list persons, and not just the innocent folks who have the bad luck of sharing the same name as the watched list person – which is what happens now. It’s been coming down the pipe a long time, but now, it’s getting serious. My work requires we have the date of birth before we can even issue an airline ticket. No date of birth. No travel for you! NEXT!
I know I don’t talk about my job a lot. I have been a business travel agent for twenty years. Most of the time when I say that, people respond, “I didn’t know travel agents were still around?” And yes, yes we are. Sure the internet changed things. Now travelers can book flights all-by-themselves by the click of a mouse or tap of an app.
It’s a fancy thing. It’s a cool thing. It’s technology brilliance. I had no idea so many people were as talented as me, or travel agent wanna-bes. I have to admit, I don’t blame them, it’s a lot of fun. I book tickets online myself (or by app), when I have personal travel. It’s simple. But not everyone travels a simple round trip. Not every company trusts their employees to book the lowest fare and adhere to the policy guidelines. And lastly, not everyone CAN book themselves online, because they have (um) challenges. You know who you are, or maybe you don’t (ahem).
Our business took a dip 9/11, but not for long. It took another dip when the economy bellied up a few years ago, but also recovered. Flights are more booked than ever. It’s like spring break travel every week. Hotels are sold out again. Every car company in a city is booked. International travel is off the charts, despite the Iceland volcano ash cloud scare that disrupted flights for a month over Europe. Business is business, it has to go on. With all the telecommunication equipment, video conferencing, and virtual training, one would think travel would not be as demanding. It doesn’t have to be done “in-person” anymore.
Not true either, most customers, clients, and businesses understand, there is nothing like face-to-face. Many training and physical labor has to be done by hand. Sensitive information has to be transported in person. Conferences and people networking with handshakes and golf, not Facebook. Business travel is big business and even bigger if the company can save and track funds as much as possible, which is where I come in. I suggest lower fares. I advise company policy. I search. I shop. I track, and I book flights – keeping in mind the demands and limits, my dear business person has.
It’s a crazy travel life, but it’s my crazy travel life.
So, when I ask for your birth date and you get all “suspicious” of my motive. When your feathers ruffle at my request because that information is PRIVATE – Puh-leeze. I no more need to know your age than your favorite color. I am just doing my job and trying to make your travel experience more pleasant and care-free in the security line, like the good ol’ days. So before I bust out in song, “You say it’s your birthday! Dun, nun, nun, nun – It’s my birthday too – yeah!” I need your date of birth for your airline ticket, or no travel for you!
And by the way…..does your government issued ID have your middle name or initial on it? It has to match. Why do I need to know (sigh)…because the government told me to. Yes, I’ll wait while you look.