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Arthur Frommer: Americans Remain Unaware of the Looming Real ID Requirement | Frommer's 1000Photography/ Shutterstock

Arthur Frommer: Americans Remain Unaware of the Looming Real ID Requirement

Update, March 17: The October deadline for Real ID has been postponed to an as-yet-unspecified date. The requirement will still go into force on some date in the future.


October 1, 2020.  
 
That date, only seven months away, is when the new Real ID requirement for United States residents will go into effect at the nation’s airports, resulting—it’s feared—in mass confusion and hardship.  
 
Persons who do not possess a Real ID, a fateful piece of identification, will not be permitted to board their flight.  Ordinary drivers’ licenses without a Real ID designation will not be accepted.
 
And it is currently estimated that tens of millions of would-be travelers are still totally unaware of their need to obtain Real ID.  
 
Whole states—like Kentucky, for example—remain blackout zones where a majority of all travelers are still without Real ID or are blissfully unaware of the impending fateful deadline.  
 
The purpose of Real ID?  It’s to prevent would-be terrorists from boarding airplane flights because of their failure to meet the requirements of obtaining Real ID.
 
One can obtain such an ID by receiving a special form of drivers’ license that requires more documents supporting one’s identity. 
 
After October 1, presentation of a valid U.S. passport will also be sufficient to board a flight. But if the passport has expired, it will not succeed in permitting boarding.  
 
If you do not already possess a Real ID, have you examined the expiration date of your passport to see if it is still valid? If it isn’t, you will not be permitted to use it to board even a short domestic flight at a U.S. airport.  
 
Because of their fear that negligent U.S. passengers may be turned away from flights, two U.S. Congressional representatives have introduced legislation to ease the requirements for obtaining Real IDs.  
 
But those bills have not yet been passed, and it is feared that by the time they are, there will not be enough time remaining to inform the public of alternative methods for obtaining a Real ID.  
 
Among the provisions of the proposed bill is one that will permit persons to board flights if they have qualified for the TSA’s so-called PreCheck. Obtain PreCheck status, show it to a TSA agent, and under the proposed law you will be permitted to board. 
 
Another provision would permit you to obtain a Read ID online before heading to the airport.  
 
Presumably, the airlines will alert you to that loophole in their online confirmation of your reservation.
 
All these seem fine—but inadequate. And fears remain of chaos at the airports starting October 1. 
 
Since readers of this column are probably already possessed of a U.S. passport, they should remember to take that passport with them when they go to the airport, even for a domestic flight.  
 
And they should obviously check that passport many weeks in advance to ensure that its expiration date has not yet passed—or will not have passed prior to the flight returning home.  
 
 
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