A TSA Insider Walks You Through How To Fly Without ID

You didn’t used to have to present government ID in order to fly. ID checks began as security theater after TWA flight 800, President Clinton asked for things he could announce right away.

Airlines used to ask for ID to make sure the person traveling was the one that bought the ticket, solely to restrict the resale market for airfare in order to support revenue management systems that increased the price of travel closer to departure (to prevent people from buying tickets cheap and reselling them as travel dates approached — undercutting the airline’s price).

Now the government does the airline’s work for them, ostensibly for security but a determined terrorist (the TSA has never caught a single one) doesn’t have much problem flying with fake documents. The ‘security purpose’ of ID checks is to try to force people to fly under their real names, so that those names can be checked against the government’s highly flawed watch and do not fly lists. Anyone on such a list, intent on committing a terrorist act, would simply choose not to fly under their own name.

You can skip showing an ID altogether if you have CLEAR and are flying from a terminal where that service is offered. Your eyes or fingerprints are your ID instead.

But if you don’t have ID, perhaps you’ve lost it or forgotten it, you can still fly. TSA has procedures for that,

  1. If you don’t have an ID they accept at the checkpoint, you can show two forms of ‘unacceptable’ ID

  2. If you don’t have any ID, they will ask you challenge questions to establish your identify. They put in a call to their ID Verification Center and ask you the sort of questions that a bank might ask when you set up an account, such as places you’ve lived in the past.

In a viral video a TSA employee on TikTok talks you through how to fly without ID.


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♬ original sound – WITHTHEHARMONY

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Wait.

    Today’s “thought leadership” is . . . a link to a Tiktok video?

  2. @ ex UA Plat, please, there’s a good amount of context that only an expert traveler would be able to give. I also appreciate the call out to the halcyon days of not having to identify oneself at the checkpoint. Just shove bags into the x ray and walk through a metal detector, shoes on. No Precheck, or, effectively, everybody was Precheck. Ahh.

    Moreover, wtf are you doing commenting with that attitude. So ungrateful. I dare you to walk up to Gary at an airport and say those words to his face!

  3. my children fly alone without ID all the time (to be fair they have government issued student ID but that’s not considered RealID). you don’t need a TSA video to explain it.

  4. The video isn’t available anymore. Maybe it’s cause I’m in Portugal but that’s what it says.

  5. I’m in my anus. Pardon the spelling. I’m using voice to text. Video ain’t available here either. Ohhhhh yeah baby

  6. During each and every year of the Clinton-Gore Admin I was flying around the US without showing ID for flights. It wasn’t until after 9/11 that I started to always get hit with an ID check demand to fly domestically.

  7. Had this happen at least 3 time (forgot to grab wallet)… and did the challenge thing each time

    Easy peasy.

    But now, I keep my global entry card in my backpack. 🙂

    The wife can still FedEx me the wallet. 🙂

    Sidebar: Got into a weird online argument where an other frequent traveler flat-out INSISTED that the TSA did not do challenge questions… even though I had said that I had actually done it. Twice, at that time.

    Some make a sport of denying reality, I suppose.

  8. If you have frozen you credit report, TSA might not have access to the answers to your challenge questions.

Comments are closed.