TSA pat downs are usually conducted in public, unless requested otherwise by the passenger, and by an agent of the same gender. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Ever lost your drivers license? It’s the worst. I lost mine while flying to Dallas for work earlier this week.
Was I able to rent a car? Nope.
Check into the hotel? Yeah, they were okay giving me a room after showing them multiple credit cards in my name.
But what about getting back home to NYC? How would I get through TSA without any government ID? Would Glenn finally get his wish for me to move to Dallas because I can't fly home? It turns out, no -- and that's the downright scary part.
After being in Dallas for a few days, I headed to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on the day of departure (Thursday). I wanted to try an experiment: Could I get on to the plane without showing any form of official ID? Just in case, I had a friend in New York expedite my passport to me in Dallas. I tucked it in my carry-on should the TSA agent not let me board. But I wanted to see if it could be done without any form of official documentation.
I arrived a few hours early for my flight. After Restoring Courage in Israel, I had the pleasure of being detained in Tel Aviv before departure because I was flying alone, so I prepared myself for a similar experience. I didn’t need to show ID at check in, so with boarding pass in hand, I headed to TSA.
I explained when I got to the podium that I had lost my drivers license while flying down to Dallas. For the sake of the experiment, I told them I had no government form of identification on me. They called over a supervisor, who asked, "Do you have anything else? Perhaps a Costco card?”
After showing my Costco card, they scribbled on the boarding pass like normal and I got in line to remove my sandals, took my laptop out of my bag and get a strong dose of radiation.
After a normal screening, I was pulled aside for a pat down (lucky me!) and my carry-on items were quickly checked and swabbed. I asked one of the TSA agents how often people forget their ID cards and she replied, "One or two times per day, it’s pretty common."
The entire ordeal was very brief and I was on my way after about five minutes, nothing like the long process in Tel Aviv.
According to the TSA website, "Adult passengers 18 and over must show valid identification at the airport checkpoint in order to travel." The list includes:
- U.S. passport
- U.S. passport card
- DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
- U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
- Permanent resident card
- Border crossing card
- DHS-designated enhanced driver's license
- Driver's licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent) for the sole purpose of identification
- Native American tribal photo ID
- HSPD-12 PIV card
- Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
- Foreign government-issued passport
- Canadian provincial driver's license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
- Transportation Worker Identification Credential
Noticeably absent? A Costco card.
To be fair, the website does say that TSA has a process for those who may have lost their IDs:
We understand passengers occasionally arrive at the airport without an ID, because of losing it or inadvertently leaving it at home. If this happens to you, it does not necessarily mean you won't be allowed to fly. If you are willing to provide additional information, we have other ways to confirm your identity, like using publicly available databases, so you can reach your flight.
If we clear you through this process, we may give you additional screening. If we can’t verify your identity, you may not be allowed to enter the screening checkpoint or to board a plane.
Now while I do appreciate that I was able to fly home (sorry, Glenn), it is somewhat concerning that I was able to get through TSA with only a Costco card at a major U.S. airport while headed to New York City. I can’t help but think that if I was able to get through so easily, who else might be able to?