What it's like to fly with no ID under TSA's new rules

Consumerist's Meg Marco sez, "One of our readers describes flying with no ID under the new TSA policy, first hand:"
After about 15 minutes, the main supervisor, Laurie, arrived. Again, Laurie was exceedingly nice and professional, but seemed a little more concerned than Brenda. She asked if I was sure I didn't have photo ID, like a credit card with my picture on it, or even a CostCo card. I wound up going through my wallet in front of her to show that I didn't, and she pointed to various cards and receipts in it to ask if they were IDs. I wound up showing her everything to prove I was telling the truth. She repeatedly said they had no way of "verifying" that I was who I said I was, and that someone could have stolen my credit card and traveled under my name. I didn't want to mention that they shouldn't need to verify who I am, because I was afraid they could then say I wasn't cooperating and deny travel on that ground. In fact, I even mentioned several times that I wanted to fully cooperate with them because I was aware that was a component of the new regulation, and they assured me that I was.

Finally satisfied that I didn't have ID, Laurie took my boarding pass and went away. She came back a few minutes later having photocopied it, and also had an affidavit that she requested I sign. It asked for my name and address, and stated in small print at the bottom that I did not have to fill it out, but if I didn't I couldn't fly. It also said that if I choose to fill it out and then provided false info, I would be in violation of federal law.

Link (Thanks, Meg!)


  1. I feel safer already.

    I made the decision when all this TSA crap started happening that I would never fly in this country and I am very pleased that my instinct was correct. Thankfully I don’t have a job that requires travel at this point. When my duties change we shall see if it becomes a real issue.

  2. At the airport recently, I realized that my driver’s license was in the jacket I had been drinking in the night before, and not in my wallet. I was slightly amused that my Costco card was asked for, because evidently terrorists hate buying in bulk- or did Costco do a background check on me that I was not aware of? Why is this the gold standard of alternative ID, and not, say, a gym membership? I think if I want to exercise to live longer, that will include not hijacking a plane. I found that if you are nice, and are willing to have every piece of your luggage searched and your shoes examined for incendiary materials, you can get on a plane in Portland with very little problem.

  3. Americans can fly without an ID? So for the next 9/11 they don’t even need a fake passport. I wonder why I am treated like a criminal when I travel to the US.

  4. Was this passenger set next to a gentleman with a buzz cut and an ill fitting suit coat that didn’t completely conceal the weird bulge under his arm? I’m not sure if I’d feel better if they were or weren’t.

    #2: They have to put that puffer booth to use somehow! I would Portland is your best bet for not being screwed with, the entire city seems to be anti-the man in a way I’ve never seen before. I really liked the airport toilets with their little green handles.

  5. I flew recently and need to vent. It was a thoroughly miserable experience. We were given the “random” in-depth search. I can honestly say, without drama, that I felt violated. By my government. Violated! (The guy who searched through my belongings reminded me of one of the interrogators in Little Brother!!)

    Fortunately, the first leg of the trip included a stop in Philadelphia, so I went and picked up a pocket Constitution. I made sure to discuss my favorite amendments of the day, very loudly, each time I was in the security line. I was comforted knowing that the 4th amendment proved this system unconstitutional, and that the 10th amendment says that not all of our rights are enumerated here. We have more rights than those pointed out in this great document.

    What is so outrageous is that none of the things they’ve done would have stopped 9/11. None! We can’t greet our loved ones at the gate – nothing to do with 9/11. Can’t bring our reusable water bottles or coffee mugs on the plane. Can’t even buy a drink INSIDE the airport to bring on the plane (we had one confiscated as we entered our 2nd security checkpoint).

    Our intelligence agencies are good at their jobs. They find terrorists and notify the higher-ups. Unfortunately, our president lacked the intellectual curiosity to look into the memo that could have prevented 9/11. Later, intelligence agents foiled the plot to bring liquid explosives on planes in Britain (if that were true, which I’m skeptical of – very convenient for the beverage companies that we have to buy drinks at airport prices).

    Needless to say, travel is outrageous lately! All we need to do is trust our instincts, and let the intelligence agencies (not the DHS) do their jobs. They’re wasting resources treating every traveler like a criminal instead of going after the real criminals. It’s a waste of money, and a violation of our constitutional rights.

  6. The Methane Protest: eat as much as you can stuff down your gullet of whatever makes you fart. Save it for the security check.

  7. “I made sure to discuss my favorite amendments of the day, very loudly, each time I was in the security line”…”We were given the “random” in-depth search.”
    Making a spectacle of yourself in the security line pretty much guarantees that you will get the in-depth search. I encourage you to keep doing this. That way while they’re busy searching you, I’ll keep my mouth shut and pass through without hesitation.

  8. Capt. Vasili Borodin: I will live in Montana. And I will marry a round American woman and raise rabbits, and she will cook them for me. And I will have a pickup truck… maybe even a “recreational vehicle.” And drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?

    Captain Ramius: I suppose.

    Capt. Vasili Borodin: No papers?

    Captain Ramius: No papers, state to state.

  9. I’d be curious to know who doesn’t have to go through these procedures and where that line is. I’ll bet Michael Chertoff never has to take his shoes off.

  10. Capt. Vasili Borodin: Well then, in winter I will live in… Arizona. Actually, I think I will need two wives.

    Captain Ramius: Oh, at least.

  11. I’m a little confused by all this fuss over the (possible) requirement to carry IDs with you to board a plane. (This is possibly because I grew up in Europe (Italy) where it’s considered completely normal to need a passport to fly).

    First, if I read my confirmation emails for domestic (US) travel, I find policies that date back at least until 2005 that state that government-issued IDs are required. This makes sense to me, if only to confirm that I am who my ticket says I am. Otherwise, anyone could get my bordering card and bord on the plane instead of me.

    So is the issue that, while it’s ok for an airline to ask for id to board, if the TSA asks for ID they’ve overstepped their bounds?

    If so, then that seems a little silly to me, since you need your ID anyway.

    If not, do people think that not even the airline should ask for your ID when you board? Do they think that there should be nothing that connects a person to the boarding pass they are carrying? A boarding pass which, one might add, you can print out at a kiosk using only a flight number and the first few letters of a surname?

    I guess I just don’t see that needing to show that you’re actually the person whose name is on that $500 ticket represents the fall of our rights and the rise of the shadow government…

  12. if you control domestic travel for citizens, you are halfway to controlling every aspect of their lives. If you do not have something to hide, there is something wrong with you.

  13. I would just like to say that when my equally friendly and benign self recently flew out of the San Francisco airport with a variety of IDs including a passport, a fascist jerk working for TSA nonetheless manhandled me into a car-wash-like glass booth wherein an ominous robotic voice told me not to move until the light turned green and a variety of hoses blew air at me as if my whole body were undergoing a glaucoma exam.

    I still have no idea what this thing was – for all I know the government just dosed me with some kind of monkey virus.

    All the while my computer with my whole dissertation on it was totally out of my sight.

    I am seriously sick and tired of being treated like crap by my own country I have traveled to has treated me so brusquely and uncivilly.

    And of course you cannot protest or you just might disappear forever. Everything has gone too far.

  14. Maybe they just confiscated part of my (above) sentence! Which was to say:

    “I am seriously sick and tired of being treated like crap by my own country. No other country I have traveled to has treated me so brusquely and uncivilly.”

  15. #14 That’s awful! I haven’t heard of this glaucoma machine. We should all start a site of our security violations.

    #7 I read the Constitution (nothing crazy about that) after I was violated by the government. After! And the people around me smiled. It brought us all comfort to hear that the founding fathers didn’t think we should be subjected to searches without a warrant. Fear not, TSA wasn’t interested in listening to citizens read the Constitution. They’re busy looking through our books and other personal belongings.

  16. SamSam, we weren’t required to carry ID flying between Ireland and the UK until quite recently. You still don’t need ID if you take the ferry across the Irish sea. And besides international flights, did you have to carry ID on domestic flights? Not in the UK or Ireland, so the apples for apple comparison doesn’t stack up (in my experience at least).

    Also, I’m not sure about which system you are talking about, but the check-in kiosks I have encountered so far, only allow you to use the surname/flight number after having had the machine scan your passport to confirm your ID, YMMV.

    And previous to this, you either had to have a physical ticket or the non-guessable online booking-number, so it was almost a non-issue who you were, because you held a valid ticket (like for a bus or cinema).

  17. I’m no advocate for the TSA, but it sounds like two friendly women made it possible for you to get on a plane WITH NO F*ING ID!!! Would you rather be refused your boarding pass, or have to answer the only handful of questions that could possibly verify your identity? They obviously surmised that you were no threat by your behavior, and tried to accommodate you within the regulations.
    I don’t think the TSA really cares about your political affiliation –it’s just another piece of stockpiled personal info that can be used to help identify you f y r stpd ngh t g t th rprt wth n D.
    n thng tht mks flyng mr dffclt? Hw bt bdss blggrs wh t p th ln wth thr prsnl TS xprmnts tht thy hp wll gt thm n bng-bng. Mssn ccmplsd, gss.

  18. Piper, the identities of airline passengers are none of the United States government’s business — that’s between the airlines and passengers.

    This is nothing more than a dragnet operation. It’s interesting to note that most of the instances of passengers being caught with falsified ID cards and passports that are described on TSA’s “Travel Document Checker (TDC)” Web page (under “Travel Document Checking Success Stories”) were arrested on charges of immigrations violations, possession of illegal drugs, or credit card theft. None of them is described as having been found to be carrying anything that, had he brought it onto his flight, would have put other passengers or crew at risk.

    If the TSA has a list of people whose movement should be restricted, they should have law enforcement officers go arrest those people and put them in front of a judge. If we’re going to restrict people’s liberties, it should be a judge or jury making that decision, not the anonymous maintainer of a government blacklist.

  19. #12, Tak: “if you control domestic travel for citizens, you are halfway to controlling every aspect of their lives.

    But they’re not “controlling domestic travel.” They’re controlling access to their planes (and I’m talking about the airlines here, not TSA, as in my last post).

    You are still free to cross the country any other way, such as train or horse-and-buggy.

    Again, it doesn’t seem totalitarian to me to want to check that the person listed on the boarding pass is the same as the person who’s holding the pass.

    Here in Boston, if I pick up pre-paid tickets for the symphony I have to show ID. Is that totalitarian?

  20. I am so glad that when I had an unmarked, possibly oversized, plastic bottle of shampoo in my quart sized zipper bag, an alert TSA agent noted my suspicious container, exclaiming loudly several times that there was an unmarked bottle, and asked whose bottle it was. She warned me that it was a bit large, and that some TSA agents might confiscate it. I feel so relieved that our government is keeping me safe by questioning the ownership of small unmarked bottles in carry-on luggage. I am sure that if I not been a 50-something of northern European descent, this unmarked bottle of translucent green shampoo would have been confiscated, thus preserving the safety of my fellow travelers. This is a much better experience than two years ago, when my pen knife with a 3.5 cm blade and scissors was not confiscated until the third time I went through the security check (on my return trip).

    Given my experience with our ever-vigilant TSA agents, I am sure no terrorist will attempt to board a plane without a government or Costco issued photo id, for fear of being subjected to a thorough search that will reveal dangerous contraband that will be immediately confiscated.

  21. You are still free to cross the country any other way, such as train or horse-and-buggy.

    That’s the saddest argument that I’ve seen so far today.

  22. @21

    Why is it you can’t see the difference between a private transaction in the case of your symphony tickets and airline travel where the govt. insinuates itself in the transaction? Airline security had no legal problems in regards to our constitution when it was a private security agency acting as an agent of the various airlines. Now that it’s a govt agency doing the searches? It’s unconstitutional.

    The TSA should be an inspector agency ensuring that the private security we had pre-9/11 was taking the task more seriously.

  23. Samsam #21: But they’re not “controlling domestic travel.” They’re controlling access to their planes (and I’m talking about the airlines here, not TSA, as in my last post).

    You’re talking about both. The TSA is a government agency, so it’s the government that’s controlling access to the planes. I’m sure that if the airlines had to foot the whole bill for all this security theater, there’d be a lot less of it.

    Piper #18, our moderation policy have something to say about “[m]aking supercilious and unpleasant remarks in a civil liberties thread about how the victim had it coming”.

  24. You are still free to cross the country any other way, such as train or horse-and-buggy.

    You can’t travel on Amtrak anonymously anymore. Guess we’re down to the horse-and-buggy.

    Who knew that the Amish would epitomize freedom in the 21st century?

  25. @21 and 24

    This is exactly the same distinction that makes giving eBay your billing information ok and the feds getting a carbon copy rather less so.

    I have no problem giving my information to any party that actually needs it in doing business with me. United can have my contact info to keep my tickets from walking off. If the TSA would like a copy, they can feel free to ask a judge for it.

  26. Ha! This is hilarious. We use a similar system at the online brokerage where I work if all your identifying information doesn’t match up perfectly. It’s actually fairly innocuous. It just draws up three randomly chosen questions based on 30 years of public records, whatever public records they can cull. I’ve had questions like, “Which of the following cars have you owned, leased, or cosigned for?” “With which of the following corporations have you ever been associated?” “What color is the 1998 Pontiac Grand Am you bought?” and so on. I don’t think it’s particularly effective at its stated purpose of preventing identity theft, as these are public records, and it inconveniences a lot of people. Still, your ex-wife could do a hell of a job coaching someone on stealing your identity, and sticking you with the capital gains taxes while she runs off with the capital gains. I can’t see that it would be more effective at airport security.

  27. Not directly related, but TSA-flavored: I just got a letter from Southwest notifying me that the TSA notified them that they removed Hazardous Materials (HazMat) from my luggage when I travelled a month ago. No (direct) response to the lost-baggage-element complaint I had filed upon receiving my bag with this item missing. The interesting part will be in figuring out what exactly about a bicycle rack (the kind that mounts on a car) constitutes hazardous materials.

  28. go check out the new $1500 fine for failing to kiss TSA ass with enough alacrity.

    First: forbid domestic air travel without internal travel papers. Done.

    Second: forbid dometic train travel without internal travel papers. In progress.

    Third: forbid domestic boating without papers. In progress.

    Fourth: control domestic bus traffic. Planning stages.

    Fifth: limit private automobile traffic. Planning/in process with fuel prices.

    Better hide your bicycles America. You may not see what is happening but I do.

  29. They absolutely ARE restricting domestic travel! I live in Hawaii: we need a plane to go between CITIES! Thankfully, TSA restrictions are a bit lighter for commuter airlines (I work at one)

    We have to be real hardcore about IDs, but we can let you keep your water. I think it’s a good tradeoff.

  30. I only fly once every year or so, but in the past 3.5 yrs, I have TWICE lost my ID. Both times I was in mid-trip, so that may have had an impact, but I have always been treated with respect and even humor. CAVEAT: I am white, 6′ and avg build, I smile and kid a lot even with strangers, and I am male. That has to be the diff, cuz both times I was allowed to proceed with little problem right up to the scanner, where I repeated my situation. Both times they merely pulled me aside for additional wanding. No suspiciousness, no creepy Big Brother atitudes, just pleasantness, courtesy and when I made cracks (careful to avoid ‘bomb’ or ‘terrorist’ jokes) I got smiles and even giggles.

    Its good to be me.

  31. Now which candidate from our marvelous 2 party system is it that has stated that they’d finally pull the rug out from underneath this ridiculuous security theater at our airports? Anyone? Yeah…I thought so. Security theater, by the way, is about to become “security opera” as in “comic opera” in that TSA is taking steps to start dressing itself in police style uniforms with big shiney brass badges and of course it won’t be too much longer before fetooned admiral’s hats and magnificent crowns of shiney metal, feathers and glittered elbow macaroni are added to further the effect…which will seque right into “tragic opera” as these baboons run roughshod over our rights.
    In the mean time, be nice to the gorillas.

  32. Oooh, someone should have a contest to see who can design a TSA uniform whose ostentatiousness best aligns with the level of self-importance displayed by the agents and administrators themselves.

    Along with 19th the century European naval fashions described by DOUG L, we might also want to look at Qing dynasty China or Heian era Japan as starting points.

  33. To answer the meta-question all the get-alongs ask:

    We’re incandescently angry because we, the owners of the country, are being manhandled like prisoners by our employees, to no sane purpose whatsoever. Because the stupid and sadistic have taken control with guns and secret laws and secret jails and secret lists. Because we are in a giant, worldwide, open air prison. Because the evil men who created this prison move about freely behind the scenes, out of sight, counting the billions they and their friends are making from the Forever Jail they and their cohorts will never inhabit themselves.

  34. BTW: Amtrak is being DHSed as we speak. Papers, bitte. Let the dog sniff you.

    It’s time for your freedom search.

  35. Photographic ID is currently compulsory in the UK for all domestic flights; a passport or driving licence will do.

  36. perhaps they can link the databases from the street search level (as in the roadblocks planned for DC).
    Your citizens phone/electronic wallet/GPS tracker/self CCTV device will also be compulsory. Take a page from Cloud Atlas; call it your “Soul”.

  37. I don’t get it. Certainly it’s possible to fly commercially without bothering with all this TSA stuff. The TSA stuff is all completely optional.

    All you have to do is charter a plane. Really. No TSA inspectors, no security lines, no nothing. Climb in and go. See? Your civil and constitutional rights are all intact.

  38. You must always look at the bright side.

    1) With all these hassle with air travel, global warming might be reduced. People would be less inclined to travel.

    2) Think of all those jobs being outsourced from America. They have to create new jobs for all these people. With the expansion to trains, and who knows what in the future, the TSA would grow larger and provide more employment opportunities.

    3) Tourist wouldn’t want to visit America. This would be a good thing, cause they’d go to other places. This will benefit the “other places”.

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