James Shillinglaw, Nov 14, 2019
Just days ago things seemed to be a little more hopeful. The U.S. Travel Association praised a U.S. Department of Homeland Security effort to make it easier for travelers to get their new REAL IDs online. These IDs, which will be mandatory for those seeking to fly on domestic or international airlines effective Oct. 1, 2020. Now U.S. Travel is urging media to once again remind travelers about that REAL ID deadline in this year’s round of Thanksgiving travel stories (okay, we’ve done our part right here!).
By next Thanksgiving, the mandate to possess a REAL ID-compliant identity document for air travel will be in full effect—and roughly 57 percent of Americans are completely unaware of that deadline, according to data released by U.S. Travel in September. U.S. Travel research also found that about 99 million Americans were likely without any form of REAL ID—a compliant driver’s license, a passport, or a military ID—at the time of the survey. Anyone who shows up at the airport next Oct. 1 without the correct ID risks being turned away from getting on a plane.
U.S. Travel leaders fear that individuals who only travel occasionally, such as those who visit family over the holidays, are most likely to be affected—making this year’s coverage of holiday travel a crucial opportunity to spread the word about REAL ID.
“Significant lack of awareness is one of the challenges we face as the REAL ID enforcement deadline approaches next year,” said Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association’s president and CEO. “We are concerned not only about the post-deadline effects for major travel times like Thanksgiving, but also about the significant crunch at state DMVs throughout next year as people scramble to obtain their REAL ID.”
The message that must be repeated to get people #RealIDready, Dow said, is at a minimum, check for the star that appears in the top right-hand corner of most REAL IDs, but ideally contact your DMV directly to find out if you’re compliant.
“The holidays are a time when less-frequent flyers might be thinking about air travel, and there is always ample news coverage of holiday travel projections and conditions at U.S. airports,” Dow said. “The next two months are going to be critical for closing the REAL ID awareness gap. We need broad activation across the public and private sectors to get the job done.”
U.S. Travel has been reaching out to a wide coalition of partners—government agencies, local and state tourism boards, and large and small travel companies, to name a few—to encourage REAL ID education efforts. The association’s REAL ID toolkit is aimed at helping stakeholders get the word out with turnkey resources and consistent messaging.
The association is also recommending policy measures to avoid major challenges at U.S. airports next October. One thing’s for sure: If more U.S. travelers don’t get their REAL IDs in the next 11 months, airline travel could grind to a virtual halt. For more information about REAL ID, additional findings from the study, policy recommendations, and other resources, click on REAL ID.