Mark Meader On Real ID’s Looming Deadline

“Real ID” requirements at U.S. airports are now just 11 months off. American Society of Travel Advisors SVP Mark Meader provides the pertinent details and implores the industry to make sure no traveler is caught unaware.


Travel management companies, travel managers and the travelers they serve should be aware that the final phase of Real ID enforcement begins on Oct. 1, 2020. From that date, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will require all passengers boarding commercial flights in the United States to present Real ID-compliant identification or an acceptable alternative (like a valid passport). Without one of those, the individual won’t get through security and may not travel.

Real ID has been in play since 2005. It refers to a set of security standards for ID card issuance, design and application processing established by Congress as part of the Real ID Act of 2005. Individual states must follow these processes when issuing driver’s licenses and other forms of identification. As a result, most Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses feature a star in their upper-right corner. U.S. federal agencies will be prohibited from accepting for official purposes licenses and ID cards that do not meet the new standards.

Mark Meader, ASTA
Mark Meader, American Society of Travel Advisors SVP of industry affairs and education

There are several acceptable ID alternatives for those who may still not have a Real ID-compliant license by the Oct. 1, 2020 deadline. In addition to a current U.S. passport or passport card, they include U.S. military ID, a DHS trusted traveler card (i.e., Global Entry, Nexus, Sentri and Fast) or an “enhanced” driver’s license issued by Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington state.

If travelers need but have not yet obtained a Real ID-compliant license, they must visit their local motor vehicles department office in person before Oct. 1, 2020. Travelers should check with their state DMV in advance to ensure they bring the required documentation. There’s no reason to wait for a current license to expire. Examples of required documentation may include proof of residency (bank statements, utility bills, etc.), proof of identity (a U.S. passport, permanent resident card or birth certificate) a Social Security card or a W-2 form listing their Social Security number.

Are Americans ready? There is much concern that they aren’t. Air travel may be seriously disrupted if millions of passengers are turned away on Oct. 1, 2020 for not having the necessary ID to fly. According to DHS, as of Oct. 1, 2019, 27 percent of Americans had been issued a Real ID.

The U.S. Travel Association in September indicated that 57 percent of Americans did not know about the Real ID requirement and nearly 40 percent did not have Real ID or any other form of acceptable identification. These figures are alarming given enforcement is less than a year away.

Our goal as an industry must be that no traveler is denied boarding due to a lack of knowledge and familiarity with Real ID requirements. All of us must work together to make that a reality.

Real ID enforcement is coming – let’s make sure we’re all prepared.

Related resource: For more information on acceptable forms of identification for boarding aircraft and for answers to other frequently asked questions regarding Real ID, check the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s webpage on the topic.


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Mark Meader

Author: Mark Meader

Mark Meader is senior vice president of industry affairs and education at the American Society of Travel Agents. He is responsible for advocating on behalf of agencies, travel advisors and consumer communities with travel suppliers, technology providers, other trade associations, coalitions and various government entities. Mark also serves as vice chair of the World Travel Agents Associations Alliance board of directors. He previously was vice president of business development at the Airlines Reporting Corporation. Mark also worked for American Airlines, United Airlines and Sabre. He began his travel industry career as an outside sales advisor at a Boston-area travel agency. Connect with Mark on LinkedIn.

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