For years TSA has been warning that if you don’t get a ‘REAL ID’-compliant drivers license you won’t be able to fly and I’ve explained that isn’t true because you can fly without ID, in fact people do it all the time.
The requirement of an ID to fly began as a ‘do something’ policy after the explosion of TWA flight 800. President Clinton demanded to be able to immediately announce new airline security measures, and told his National Security Council team to come up with some. Yet to this day around 700,000 people per year fly without showing valid ID.
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,
- If you don’t have an ID they accept at the checkpoint, you can show two forms of ‘unacceptable’ ID
- If you don’t have any ID, they will ask you challenge questions to establish your identity. 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.
About 2000 people a day fly without any ID, or using ‘unacceptable’ IDs and the ID Verification Center takes around 300-400 calls per day with the balance using two forms of ‘invalid’ IDs.
Early in the pandemic I wrote that Covid-19 would be an excuse to kick the REAL-ID can down the road, the way electoral necessity had been in the past. That’s exactly what happened. TSA says it plans to start requiring REAL ID-compliant identification for access to airport security checkpoints in May 2023. But there’s no indication they’ll stop alternative forms of identifying passengers.