Matching Names between Travel Documents

A major cause of identity management headaches for airlines and border control agencies lies in the complexity of naming conventions across different countries, cultures and ethnicities.

In conforming to the constraints and practices that exist for passport name standards versus the requirements for entering names into airline reservation systems, names may be altered or abbreviated or salutations may often be omitted.

Name Differences

Examples of abbreviations in Asian and Middle Eastern names include ‘Mohd’ which is short for ‘Mohammad’, ‘Al’ or ‘So’ which is an abbreviation of ‘Son Of’, and ‘Daughter Of’ abbreviated to ’Ap’ or ‘Do’.

Spanish names, which apply commonly across South America, generally use two surnames. A woman’s name may also reference her husband’s paternal surname, for example ‘Carmen SÁNCHEZ Rubio de García’.

Some ethnicities, such as the Chinese, present their Surname before their Given Name commonly resulting in the Surname being interpreted by systems as the ‘First Name’, and the Given name as their ‘Last Name’. ‘Zhang Bin’ can be a different person from ‘Bin Zhang’.

The permutations are endless, resulting in long queues and safety risks as agents diligently check the airline reservation name against the passport name by hand, sometime with the help of a trusty highlighter pen.

SITA Proof of Concept

Identifying acceptable differences between passenger boarding pass and passport names is a task that SITA Lab set out to resolve.

SITA Lab developed an algorithm based name matching solution to address the issue of name matching between Passport and Boarding Pass names and conducted Proof of Concept (POC) trials in APAC, the Middle East and Europe. The trials proved that the algorithm-based name matching solution far exceeded the performance of eye-ball comparison of names and also eliminated errors due to human fatigue from repetitive data comparison.

Business needs, whether for government regulation, booking enforcement, or facilitation of check-in, will determine what type of algorithms and rule sets should be used for specific implementations of this solution going forward.

As part of its Identity Management Community Innovation Program, SITA is considering how name matching rules can be established and maintained as part of a community role. This could lead to ways to automate this process to speed up throughput of passengers and reduce operational costs, improve the name matching success rates for airline, security and government organizations and contribute to a safer, global travel industry.

API Implementation

The NameMatching solution has been implemented as a RESTful API to enable developers to integrate a name match into any booking, check-in or other security check application. This API is available for testing from this site and uses a default ruleset.

Just register on and then contact Mohamed Amin to get an API key for authentication. A swagger environment to test the API is available by clicking on the Try it Now menu option.

For further details on this API or any aspect of this Indentity Management initiative, please contact Mohamed Amin, Product Manager, NameMatching API

You can also download a copy of our White Paper on Name Matching: