Partner Series
How Can I Board a Plane Without ID?


Last week, I was in a pickle. While enjoying a glorious day of skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho, my wallet tumbled out of my unzipped pocket and disappeared in the snow. Hours of searching turned up nothing, so I reported the lost wallet to the slopes' security office and called it a day.

The only problem was, I needed to fly home a few days later. How would I be able to board my plane without my driver's license? Well, I was able to get through airport security without any identification at all, and it wasn't that difficult. The whole ordeal lasted about ten minutes. How can you get through airport security without identification ?

First, I presented myself to the TSA podium and told them what happened. They asked if I had anything a credit card, a student ID, a library card with my name on it. Unfortunately, no, I didn't.

The officer took me to a manager, who took me to the side of the line and asked me to write down my full name and address, as she dialed a number on a weird brick-like phone. The agent asked me a series of questions from the state where my social security card was issued to my mother's birthday from the person on the other end of the phone through the agent.

The agent repeated my answers into the phone, and someone on the other end checked it in some sort of database. Then the final question came: name a neighbor who lives near my address. I answered that my fiancé lives with me at the same address and gave his name.

With that, I passed the identity verification process and slid into the regular baggage screening line, with no special check of my body or luggage.

The whole process is a little mysterious, no? Especially that master database that contains all my personal information. Unfortunately, when I called the TSA to inquire about the finer points of this process, the spokesperson couldn't give too many details.

TSA Spokesman Kawika Riley told me that "passengers who do not or cannot present an acceptable ID will have to provide information to the Transportation Security Officer performing Travel Document Checking duties in order to verify their identity. Passengers who are cleared through this process may be subject to additional screening. Passengers whose identity cannot be verified by TSA may not be allowed to enter the screening checkpoint or an airplane."

Other stories exist of people being asked identity-confirmation questions like "What color is your house?" It seems to indicate that the databases used to confirm identity include satellite pictures. From commercially-available databases and pictures, the TSA checks all parts of your information.

Here's my advice: If you lose your wallet, remain calm and leave plenty of time to get through the confirmation process. A printout of your passport does not, I was told, constitute any identification.

If you have anything at all even a Costco membership card show it and you'll already be further along in the process. And even if you don't, just comply with whatever the TSA asks you and you'll likely still be able to hop on your scheduled flight.

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