Guests can breathe easier after the federal government announced Thursday that the REAL ID deadline has been extended a full year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The initial deadline had been Oct. 1, 2020.
If you like to use your driver’s license as your main identification to get through TSA security checkpoints at the airport, it’s crucial to make sure it’ll be REAL ID-compliant and ready to fly starting Oct. 1, 2021. The REAL ID Act is a federal law.
To get flyers ready for this significant transition, we’re providing a resource for our guests, employees and the public to get the latest information about REAL ID and its fast-approaching changes. It’s found on the Alaska Airlines website at alaskaair.com/REALID.
Here are some key things to know:
- Beginning Oct. 1, 2021, your driver’s license will need to be REAL ID-compliant if you want to use it to fly within the U.S. It’s part of a law passed by Congress. If your license is not compliant, and you don’t have another acceptable form of ID, you’ll have trouble getting through airport security.
- State licensing agencies and motor vehicle departments are expecting long lines and wait times in the months leading up to October 2021. If you want your driver’s license to be REAL ID-compliant, now’s the perfect time to make the upgrade because the rush is coming. Why not check this off your list now?
- REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and the processes to get them are different state to state, which can be confusing. In most cases, you’ll need to bring additional documentation to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, and you might even need to make an appointment. A few states, like Oregon, have not yet begun to distribute REAL ID-compliant licenses, so residents should refer to their state licensing agency or motor vehicle department websites for details and plan accordingly.
- Many states identify their REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses with a gold star in the upper right corner, which indicates they’ll be ready to use at airport security checkpoints starting Oct. 1, 2021. But some states, such as Washington, do not use gold stars for REAL ID-compliant licenses.
- You do have a choice. If you want to fly after Oct. 1, 2021, with other acceptable identification – for example, your U.S. passport or a U.S. military ID – you can do that instead. Just remember to bring that ID to the airport.
“We always want our guests to have the best possible travel experience with us and at the airport,” says Wayne Newton, vice president of airport operations and customer service at Alaska Airlines. “We want to do everything we can to help spread the word about the upcoming changes with federal laws taking effect, and how our customers can get prepared.”
Click on the state where you live to find out more on how to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license:
District of Columbia
Refresh my memory. What exactly is the REAL ID Act?
Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 in an effort to strengthen identification rules at airports. The act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver licenses. Under the law, state driver licenses and ID cards have to be issued only to people who can prove they are legally living in the United States. If state licenses don’t meet the standards, then federal agencies – such as the TSA – will not accept them.
So what happens in October 2021 if I show up at the airport with my standard driver license as my only ID?
You’ll be turned away and not allowed to go through a TSA checkpoint if you don’t have another form of approved identification. And you’ll miss your flight.
So when do the rules actually change?
Currently, the DHS has indicated the enforcement of the REAL ID Act starts on October 1, 2021. At that point, standard driver licenses issued by some states – such as Washington – will not be accepted by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) at U.S. airports. TSA will accept enhanced driver licenses, since they have established your identity and U.S. citizenship.
Am I required to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license?
No, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your travel needs. You can use a current U.S. passport or a U.S. military ID at the airport to get through TSA security after Oct. 1, 2021, just like you can right now. Just remember to bring it. Having a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license is convenient for many of us because it’s something we always carry with us. Other acceptable forms of identification is found here.