Airlines long wanted to eliminate the secondary market in airline tickets, in order to enforce their revenue management strategies. If customers could buy and resell tickets, that makes it impossible for airlines to price discriminate between leisure travelers buying tickets far in advance and less price sensitive business travelers buying close to departure.
An airline can’t very well sell cheap early and expensive close-in if customers could buy those same tickets cheaply in advance and then resell them to other customers at a profit — while still undercutting an airline’s price — close to departure.
As a result airlines have long wanted requirements for passengers to have to show ID in order to use airline tickets, in order to make airline tickets non-transferable.
Frequent flyers used to travel under each others’ names all the time, to gain the benefits of status for each other and to help each other earn points. ID requirements limit the ability to do that, although they don’t make it impossible.
But when did the ID rule become a government requirement?
According to Richard A. Clarke, former National Security Council member in the Reagan administration, chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council in the Clinton administration, and Special Advisor to the President on cybersecurity in the George W. Bush administration, the rule was a ‘do something’ reaction during the Clinton administration in response to TWA flight 800, before anyone had any idea what had happened to the aircraft.
In his book, Against All Enemies, he wrote that President Clinton planned to see the families of victims of the airline disaster.
The ID requirement is one of the things his staff came up with:
Like much of the Patriot Act 5 years later, ID requirements were a pet idea that many people wanted to implement already and used a crisis as justification.
And the ID requirement, like the No Fly List, wasn’t actually enshrined in law but rather by executive fiat.
(HT: Papers, Please)