TSA Keeps Rejecting Passengers With Colorado Drivers Licenses

Colorado updated its drivers licenses in February 2022, but the TSA hasn’t updated its drivers license readers to recognize the new design. As a result, people that have renewed their Colorado licenses over the past year keep getting flagged at airport security.

As if TSA screening isn’t enough of a mess in Denver, the preponderance of Colorado licenses makes things even worse, because the screener then has to identify the passenger without relying on the government ID.

  • The vendor blames TSA, and TSA promises to update their Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) machines. But they won’t say when.

  • This has nothing to do with REAL ID (maybe that’ll be required in May 2025?), and newly-compliant licenses aren’t required at this point at airport checkpoints in any case. Indeed, it is only new licenses that get flagged.

About 2000 people per day fly without any ID. Plus Colorado residents, at least those with new licenses.

(HT: @crucker)

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. My daughter goes to CU and I fly in and out of DEN every month or so. Guess this helps explain why backups at their security checkpoint is one of the worst in the nation. Yesterday it took 20 minutes to get through with Clear and Pre Check!

  2. Denver is one of the worst airports in the country for wait times and delays. The ongoing construction makes it even more frustrating. Trains are only method to reach B and C gates. One day we may get sky bridges to those gates but I’d be surprised if it actually comes to fruition. Compare Atlanta experience to Denver – both incredibly busy but ATL is much easier to get around.

  3. Denver Airport is the epitome of a Clusterf**k. There is no rhyme or reason to the checkpoints. Sometimes they are open or they are not, TSA may or may not recognize PreCheck. It is probably my least favorite airport to fly out of, not to mention the facilities border on third world and the frigging train only partially works. We have had it pull in and leave without the doors opening multiple times.

  4. Congress needs to re-assess the role of the TSA. Far too much power and sucks up far too much resources while also doing an extremely poor job in its ostensible mission statement.

  5. This is so not an issue, total clickbait. I have the new license and fly all the time out of DEN. Never once had an issue other than a TSA agent saying, “Oh, this is a new license.” And that was in another state.

  6. If the government got out of the business of mass surveillance and facilitating mass surveillance of free Americans (which rhe REAL ID Act does enable), then this ID checking-related issue with newer Colorado licenses wouldn’t even happen when flying within the US.

    Let’s get the government out of the domestic passenger identification business and get the security screeners to instead focus on the basics of preventing prohibited weapons, explosives and incendiaries from getting airside, and airports would be a better place for it.

  7. More nonsense from Gary. DEN based flyer here – this is not a problem. Yes, the machine sometimes rejects the CO drivers’ license, but when it does the agent just checks the ID against the boarding pass and away you go. No passengers are being rejected because of this. Headline is just wrong.

    And this: “About 2000 people per day fly without any ID. Plus Colorado residents, at least those with new licenses.” is just bullocks. Colorado residents with these new licenses are certainly flying with ID… The IDs are valid – it’s the machine/software that has the issue.

  8. I fly to and from SF to Den and SF is always giving me a hard time and always wanting me to go back to the ticket counter to ensure my boarding pass it correct . This happens all the time so now I just use my passport there.

  9. Of course, this is a stupid click bait headline, but here we are. The TSA ID readers are rejecting passengers, not TSA blocking passengers from boarding. In PVD last summer, I used Pre-check since the Clear agent was busy escorting another passenger and there was no wait with the Pre-check agent. My ID usually has a sticker over the back barcode so that I can prevent a cashier from scanning the ID without my knowledge first. I forgot to take this off for the agent. He proceeded to scan it and the reader returned an error beep but still displayed the front image of my license. He repeated this 3 or 4 times before I realized my mistake of not removing the sticker.

    Not once did the agent stop to inspect the ID itself to see what was wrong, he kept attempting to scan it. It makes me wonder if agents are doing the same thing with Colorado licenses that error out because CAT isn’t updated for the new design. But also since ID’s are tied to boarding pass verifications I can see how this is causing delays since a manual ID to BP pass will have to be done.

  10. I have any idea, let’s just abolish the TSA and turn it over to private contractors. They have been shown to be far more efficient than government workers.

  11. At Dulles, my wife’s Colorado ID was rejected by TSA precheck, but my Colorado ID was not rejected. Mine is brand new with the newest design, her’s was the last generation, but still pretty new and has the real ID star. She had to get out of line and go to the non-precheck area.

  12. I recently flew round trip DEN-ONT (California). TSA screened my CO DL with no problem, and didn’t need to scan boarding pass. On the return, the DL could not be read at ONT and they had to scan the boarding pass.
    Got through DEN screening at 6:45am in less than 15 minutes; pretty happy about that.

  13. We flew out of Colorado Springs thru Denver to Hawaii and my wife has a newer Colorado driver’s license coming back from Hawaii thru Dallas and onto Colorado Springs she had no issues, they just tested NY insulin cooler.

  14. Visited family in Denver a few years ago. While I was there, I bought a used, non-working antique tube type amplifier. I realized that there was absolutely NO way this thing would EVER get past the TSA (remember, you have to plug it in and demonstrate that it works) and trying would probably earn me a one-way ticket to Gitmo and no frequent flyer miles either.

    I shipped it to myself via UPS, and was able to board the airplane with no problems (other than the usual X-ray, shoes off, loyalty oath, DNA test, cavity search, etc.) and the amplifier showed up at home (Florida) four days later.

    Any time you try to take something the least bit odd with you, especially if it has wires on it and vacuum tubes which are older than most of the TSA people, you are going to have a problem. Just avoid the situation entirely, ship “it” to yourself.

  15. Well I didn’t have an issue in Denver, I did have a slight issue in Madison, Wisconsin, where the TSA agent. There could not read the barcode or anything off of my ID, and had to use another device to determine what it was that he was looking at

  16. Have the new Colorado real ID driver’s license. Had problems flying out of Albuquerque, and then returning back to Colorado flying out of Arizona. They wanted me to show a passport or the passport card which of course I did not have as I had not planned on leaving the continental US. Bit of a train wreck.

  17. That’s interesting. I’ve had NO problems with TSA because of my Colorado id/drivers license EVER. My most recent flight was 7 days ago. So hopefully for everyone else’s sake they get it handled.

  18. This is absolutely a known problem as of May 2023 and they have no timetable for a fix. My wife and I have Colorado ids and every airport including Denver does not scan them. It takes them 5 minutes to manually check. Creating long lines. The TSA agents will tell you the new scanners don’t work on Colorado IDs. The old scanners did work.

  19. Does anyone think this is a Colorado issue? I can’t even read my own drivers license. My wonderful real Id was rejected at Dulles tsa. With all the big hype about gettyour real Id you’d think the leadership would make sure it works

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