Pa.’s Largest Airports Join Forces to Raise Real ID Awareness

From Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, industry emphasizes importance of new identification

By Matt Neistein

Published December 16, 2019

Read Time: 3 mins


As the clock continues to tick toward Oct. 1, 2020, Pennsylvania’s five largest airports are banding together to raise public awareness about the deadline for the Real ID personal identification upgrade.

In partnership with the Aviation Council of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport, Harrisburg International Airport, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport and Lehigh Valley International Airport are pooling resources in order to inform as many people as possible about the new federal requirement.

Beginning on Oct. 1, Transportation Security Administration workers will refuse to allow passengers through airport security checkpoints without Real ID, a federally mandated form of identification that meets increased security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. TSA will also accept passports in lieu of Real ID cards.

“We want people to be able to board their flight. No one wants passengers to be blocked from a flight because they don’t have Real ID,” said Debbie Bowman, executive director of the ACP, a nonprofit trade association that represents 21 total airports in the state.

The five airports are investing in micro-websites devoted to educating the public about Real ID and coordinating outreach to both media outlets and ordinary citizens about the looming deadline.

Those efforts run parallel with the state’s program, which includes offering Real ID presentations to civic groups, community organizations and legislator-sponsored expositions and meetings.

“By working together, we can deliver a powerful and consistent message to all Pennsylvania residents that the Real ID deadline is fast approaching and anyone planning domestic travel after Oct. 1, 2020, must be prepared,” said Timothy Edwards, executive director of Harrisburg International.

The airport in Pennsylvania’s capital has placed signage throughout its facilities, including the bottom of every plastic bin used at the TSA security checkpoint, reminding travelers of the deadline, Edwards said.

They’re also consistently campaigning for awareness via social media, an approach taken by many airports across the country. And it’s not just airports concerned about the new requirement – airlines, hotels, tourism organizations and more are trying to get the word out, as well.

That nationwide message underscores just how important Real ID is, said Vince Gastgeb, vice president of government and community affairs for Pittsburgh International Airport.

“This is an industrywide issue, which is why we think collaborating with the other major airports in the state and leveraging our resources together makes a whole lot of sense,” he said. “We’re one of the most populous states in the U.S., and it’s important that we lead the way on this.”

Congress passed the REAL ID law in 2005, prompted by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The new cards are required for federal purposes; in addition to flights, you’ll need REAL ID to enter federal buildings (excluding federal courts) or to gain entry to military bases.

Getting Real ID requires submitting an original birth certificate or passport, a Social Security card, proof of residency and documentation of any name changes. There is a one-time $30 fee.

Pennsylvanians should not get Real ID confused with the state’s redesigned driver’s licenses – Real ID has a star in the top right corner; regular licenses do not.

In southwestern Pennsylvania, the only place to get a Real ID over the counter is the Bridgeville PennDOT Driver’s License Center. Other area PennDOT centers take applications and will mail Real IDs within 15 days.

Pennsylvania drivers who received their first licenses after September 2003 are pre-verified for Real ID and may apply for Real ID pre-verification on PennDOT’s website. The state started keeping copies of customers’ documents that year.

“Don’t wait until the last minute. That will probably be more time and work,” said Bowman, ACP’s executive director. “There could be long, long lines at PennDOT a year from now.”

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