Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, Pennsylvanians will need a REAL ID or passport to board a domestic commercial flight. (Image courtesy of the PA Dept. of Transportation)

Leading Airport Group Warns of Real ID ‘Crisis’

The CEO of the largest airport association in the U.S. sounded the alarm last week about the impending Real ID deadline, saying “a real crisis” is looming for tens of millions of air travelers.

Kevin Burke, who leads Airports Council International – North America, appeared in an NBC News report on the race to get citizens to upgrade their state-issued identification to meet mandated federal standards by Oct. 1. Beginning that day, driver’s licenses and similar forms of photo ID will no longer be accepted at TSA checkpoints for passengers booked on commercial flights.

Burke and other aviation officials have been lobbying the White House to push back that deadline.

“If the government doesn’t make a definitive statement now that they’re going to extend this, then we’re going to have a real crisis on our hands come October 1st,” he said.

Congress passed the Real ID law in 2005, prompted by the September 11 terrorist attacks. The new cards are required for federal purposes; in addition to flights, citizens will 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 in Pennsylvania.

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, just west of Pittsburgh. 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.

“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 Aviation Council of Pennsylvania, which represents 21 airports in the state.

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