Leaving on a Jet Plane, but only before January

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By Jennifer Carter, Staff Writer

By now, most Pennsylvania residents have heard the news that their Pennsylvania license or identification card will be unacceptable to gain admittance onto planes and into federal buildings or military bases, beginning January 22, 2018.[1] But as can happen with multi-layered bureaucratic issues, there is a lot of confusion as to how and why residents will be affected.

The reason that state identification cards have come under scrutiny is due to the REAL ID Act of 2005.[2] The Act was proposed in response to the New York City terror attacks on September 11, 2001.[3]  The Act was adopted in 2005 and set minimum standards for state issued IDs that federal agencies accept for official purposes.[4] According to the Transport Security Administration (lovingly known as the TSA), on January 22, 2018, air travel will be restricted to REAL ID compliant identification cards, thus travelers must show alternative acceptable ID if they are licensed in Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina or Washington.[5]

As of October 1, 2020, only REAL ID or alternative acceptable identification cards will allow air travel, internationally or domestically.[6] TSA accepts 15 types of identification for air travel,[7], but most people only have a state-issued license or identification card.[8] One of the alternatives on this list is a federally issued passport,[9] which will be a common alternative form of identification for many people. While passports will remain acceptable, they cost $110-195 and take 4-6 weeks to obtain.[10] Not only can this cost alone be prohibitively expensive, but flight prices are also increasing this year,[11] and worse yet, passports may not even arrive in time if one is traveling for an exigent reason.

Should Pennsylvania or other states begin to issue federally compliant identification cards, the states are responsible to fund the cost of compliance.[12]  This generally means that costs will trickle down to the consumer, or in this case the Pennsylvania resident.

Currently, an initial Pennsylvania license (valid for 4 years) costs $35.50; a renewal (also valid for 4 years) in PA costs $30.50; a duplicate license costs $29.50.[13] If you happen to be turning 32 in 2018, your driver’s license will be due for renewal, so in order to fly in 2018, you will pay $140.50 for a new passport and license renewal, and alternative options are minimal. Moreover, the only acceptable payments to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation are checks and money orders,[14] and as many people no longer use checks, another fee for a money order will be tacked onto this already high bill. Should Pennsylvania come into compliance during 2018, that same resident will have to pay for an even newer license, likely at a higher cost than the current $30.50 renewal fee.

As a resident in a non-compliant state, limited options exist for those planning to fly next year. The best thing to do, as always when preparing to fly, is to stay informed as to what you will need to successfully board a flight. The websites for both Homeland Security and the TSA are frequently updated and provide clear information for airline travelers.

Additionally, citizens can write to their representatives in Harrisburg to pass legislation to provide state-issued identification that comply with the federal rules. As federal agencies already track anyone who enters a commercial aircraft, there is no reason that our state identification cards should not comply with more strict specifications to be accepted nationwide.



[1] https://www.dmv.org/articles/the-real-id-act-are-you-ready-for-a-national-id/, last visited Nov. 22, 2017.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] https://www.dhs.gov/news/2016/12/12/tsa-notify-travelers-upcoming-2018-real-id-airport-enforcement, last visited Nov. 22, 2107.

[6] Id.

[7] https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification, last visited Nov. 22, 2017.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] http://www.uspassporthelpguide.com/passport-fee/, last visited Nov. 22, 2017.

[11] http://money.cnn.com/2017/01/12/news/companies/delta-airfares/, last visited Nov. 22, 2017.

[12] https://www.dmv.org/articles/the-real-id-act-are-you-ready-for-a-national-id/.

[13] http://www.dmv.pa.gov/Information-Centers/Payment/Pages/Payments-and-Fees-Page.aspx, last visited Nov. 22, 2017.

[14] Id.



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