How To Fly Without An ID - TheStreet

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Each day, some 300 passengers forget to bring their I.D. to the airport. That makes me feel better.

After a 2,800 mile journey to Los Angeles from New York last week, I realized I’d lost my license somewhere between security checkpoint at John F. Kennedy Airport and my Virgin America plane seat. So much for renting a car, I concluded. But wait - -what about getting back on the plane to travel home? My mind ran to a scary place -- me, alone, stranded in Los Angeles with no car and a massive hotel bill because I’d have to wait days to retrieve my license to get permission to board. I mean, let’s face it, if the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires us to take off our flip flops, remove all liquids and be subjected to random body searches, how are we supposed to slide past them with no valid forms of ID?

Well, it’s actually easier than you might think, as long as you remain cooperative with the airport powers-that-be.

Here are some tips for how to fly without an ID:

Without proper identification (e.g. a valid driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport), prepare to arrive at the airport a half hour earlier than usual. You still have to go through the travel documents line (even if there are 80 people in front of you) just to inform the guard that you have no valid ID. At that point, they’ll call for more security to arrive and verify your ID through a round of questions and phone calls to the public records department at Homeland Security.


Be on your best behavior. TSA officials don’t like it when you get snappy. Part of their job is to detect fraudulent passengers. Give thoughtful answers and try not to get nervous. Also, as of June 21, 2008, if the TSA suspects that you didn’t actually lose or forget your ID, that you’re simply refusing to show your I.D., there’s no chance you’re getting on that plane.

Passengers who forget their IDs are put under the magnifying glass. I received a full-on extra security check, including I.D. verification (five to 10 minutes), along with a very thorough body and bag search (another 10-15 minutes). The kind TSA guard with the light blue surgical gloves offered me a couple choices, and asked if I would prefer a physical body pat-down or multiple electronic body screenings. I opted for the least physically intrusive of the two – screenings. The TSA’s own Web site states that “cooperative passengers without ID may be subjected to additional screening protocols, including enhanced physical screening, enhanced carry-on and/or checked baggage screening, interviews with behavior detection or law enforcement officers and other measures.”

Learn more about travel safety and security tips at

Catch more of Farnoosh’s advice on Real Simple. Real Life. on TLC, Friday nights at 8 p.m.