SANTA ANA, Calif. – A California congresswoman said she was briefly denied access to a United Airlines flight last week because her name appeared on a "no fly list" set up after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat who has been a critic of the no-fly list, said her staff had booked her a one-way ticket from Boise, Idaho, to Cincinnati through Denver. But they were prevented from printing her boarding pass online and at an airport kiosk.
Sanchez said she was instructed to check in with a United employee, who told her she was on the terrorist watch list. The employee asked her for identification, Sanchez said.
"I handed over my congressional ID and he started laughing and said, 'I'm going to need an ID that has your birthday on it,"' Sanchez said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.
The employee used Sanchez's birth date to determine she was not the same Loretta Sanchez on the list, and she was able to board her flight, she said.
Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Jennifer Peppin said that for security reasons she couldn't confirm that the name was on the list. But she said that name mix-ups do occur.
"Generally what happens is people have a name that is very similar to someone who is on the no-fly list. It's the airlines' responsibility to do further checking," Peppin said.
Sanchez is favored to win a sixth term representing the 47th Congressional District, about 30 miles south of Los Angeles. The district includes many of the 24,000 Arab Americans who live in Orange County.
Sanchez said that she has fought to get some of her constituents' names off the no-fly list and that doing so can take up to six months.
"When they want to, TSA can make sure that you don't have that identification problem," she said. "Sometimes it's taken us months to get these people off the lists so they can travel in a normal way. I can't have to worry about that."