TSA Explains How To Fly Without ID

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.

One argument that critics of airlines speaking out on voting laws have made is that airlines require ID to fly. Of course you an check in via mobile app or online without an ID, and go through security without ID.

In fact, the TSA has now posted a video to its social media explaining the process of flying without ID.

  • 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 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.

The TSA even solicited bids for an app to handle the challenge questions, an electronic version of a bridge troll if you will.

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.

(HT: Papers, Please!)

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. “Anyone on such a list, intent on committing a terrorist act, would simply choose not to fly under their own name.”

    Give me a break, the 9/11 hijackers used their real names when they bought their plane tickets. that’s how they were so easily identified. Why shouldn’t airlines require you to confirm its you flying? Terrorism aside, how ridiculous would it be to have someone else do mileage runs for you.

  2. Now….if we can only find a way to travel without the TSA, then we would be talking progress

  3. @Tony – anyone intent on doing such a thing *now, given these procedures* would not fly under their own name. THERE WAS NO ‘NO FLY LIST’ IN SUCH A FORM on 9/11.

  4. So what’s the rush to swap out my license with one that’s REAL ID compliant? Can’t I just show two forms of “unacceptable ID”? Like my non-REAL ID license and a bank card beginning Oct. 1?

  5. The Soviets did fine with internal passports. Obviously that is the ideal here. To travel within our own country we have to show papers. Charming, and just freedoms are we protecting here?

  6. @Mtich,
    Yes, you can do that. However in the one experience where I flew with someone who lost her ID before returning home (and I realize that this is “n of 1” data), they made her wait 20+ minutes outside security, ostensibly to monitor response and such, before letting her in. So, yeah, you can do that, but expect that it will be decidedly less convenient.

    I use my GE card as Real ID so that I can wait until my DL expires to get a new Real one.

    Cheers.

  7. Hers the pitch. Get a brown paper bag. Staple a magic marker note on it. “I don’t a speaka English. I am going to my destination to meet relatives. I have no food. I have no money. Can you help me?” ICE says it works great.

  8. will all the chuckleheads who think they’re clever for saying “you need a driver’s license to board a plane, why not need one for voting too?” shut up now?

  9. @cam
    So you agree?
    Either show your ID to vote, or undergo a more rigorous screening before being allowed to do so.

  10. On September 9th, 2001 I was flying without showing any ID to fly between DCA and LGA. And that was when I was a regular on the shuttle flights on very cheap tickets courtesy of negotiated rates.

    Most of my domestic flights during 2001 and during the Clinton-Gore Administration years from 1993 to 2001 were also done without showing any ID. But I also was not checking luggage on most of my trips back then too.

  11. The TSA is the reason COVID-19 became so widspread in the United States. The Zip Code maps show minorities that work in and around international airports were the first to kill the minority elderly people in nursing homes, which they contracted because of poor protocols.

  12. re: 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.

    Comment: If you have “frozen” your Equifax, Experian, and/or Transunion credit report, then I expect that the process to confirm your identity with challenge questions will probably fail.

  13. Kenneth Athon: If you think locking your credit accounts with the scam artists at the credit bureaus affects how or what information a government agency can access…..I have some ocean front property in Colorado you will be very interested in.

  14. The question is, however, after Oct. 1, 2021, will TSA continue to allow people without a listed accepted ID to fly. If they do, they will hear from Congress as that would negate Real ID and thumb its nose at the 9/11 Commission report.

  15. Funny you chose a Hawaiian ID for the article photo (coincidence?) because the TSA scanners seems to have a hard time reading the newly issued ones… something the agents in HNL have made a point of mentioning every time I try and use mine at the checkpoint

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