I had just landed in LAX the Friday of the start of Spring Break when I stopped at Starbucks to grab something to drink, and as I grabbed my debit card to hand to the cashier – I realized my ID was missing. I was on the phone with my dad and went into FULL panic mode. How was I going to make my flight home? What if it’s not where I thought it was? Do I report it stolen? So many questions ran through my mind as I figured out the best course of action.
Now for some context, I had flown out of Logan Airport in Boston and because I fly across the country frequently, I have enrolled in the TSA Precheck program. This means that I don’t have to take off my shoes, empty the contents of my bag or anything along those lines, I get to go through the expedited screening which is much less invasive and much faster. However, it was a bit scrambled with it being the second wave of Spring Breakers to come through and people on vacation so they were rushing us and our items through the security checkpoint more hurriedly than usual. They told me to leave my ID out so I ended up throwing the ID and my tickets into the white bins they provide along with my keys, wallet and phone as I usually do. Little did I know that my ID had fallen out onto the conveyor belt and not into my wallet as I had believed it had. Not even thinking twice about the whole ordeal, I boarded my flight and flew to LAX thinking I had my ID in my wallet that whole time.
The first course of action was calling and contacting the TSA precheck Lost and Found where I left a very detailed message about my ID and pretty much everything that was listed on it as well as filing an online report. Yet, as I submitted the form, I read their notice. It takes them up to 5 days to get back to you and my trip was 7 days long, and I was also going to be across the country in Hawaii. This is when I started to do some research: how does one get on a flight with no identification?
I read article upon article about other people’s experiences going through TSA without the identification of their driver’s license. Some people had everything stolen on a trip, so they had absolutely nothing, others used prescriptions and/or answered security questions through a series of interviews to verify their identity. I started to wonder… what was my experience going to be like? Would I have to answer a series of questions? Would my bag and all of its contents be rifled through? I ended up giving it a rest and waited anxiously to hear back from TSA on whether or not they had my ID in their possession. After the fourth day of my trip, I received an email confirming that they had found my license and listed the options I had in regards to retrieving it – I decided that I would personally go pick it up after I landed in Boston. Fast forward seven days and I was ubering to the airport three hours ahead of my departure time, bags in tow, wondering how this experience was going to go.
I first approached the Agricultural Checkpoint where they make sure that you aren’t bringing any agriculture out of Hawaii, but thankfully they didn’t ask to see any identification. I internally panicked about the bag of dried apricots I had stored in a pocket, but there were no issues. I was asked to place my check-in bag on the conveyor belt so that they could tag it as both inspected and approved, and off I went to the Check-In counter. I approached a Delta agent and explained the situation a bit, she looked a bit more annoyed if anything, but directed me to the kiosk where I proceeded as usual. As I went to the Baggage Drop counter, I once again explained the situation about my ID (and how it was in Boston, where I was headed) but that I had alternate forms of identification. She asked for a credit card and something with my photo on it, so I handed her my University of Maine student ID. She seemed satisfied with both of those, and let my bag through, directing me towards gate security.
I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t internally panicking when walking to towards security. It had been fairly painless up until this point, so I picked the nicer of the two TSA agents and hoped for the best. Especially because this man had the fate of my travel day in his hands and he knew that. I once again explained the situation and he asked for another form of identification that wasn’t my student ID, so I handed over my Costco card. That seemed to do the trick in terms of identification and he told me I was going to be labeled as a 1+1 – meaning a TSA agent was going to follow me all the way through security and I was going to go through secondary screening at the other end. Eventually, a male agent came and ushered me to follow him. I proceeded to place everything in the bins and my bags on the conveyor belt and proceeded through screening as usual with the TSA agent following my bags behind the belt. After screening, all of my items were taken off the belt and taken into the secondary screening area.
At this point, the 1+1 agent turned me over to another male agent who was assigned to wipe down and sift through my belongings along with a female agent who was going to conduct my pat down. As they went through my bags and other personal items, the female agent proceeded to give me the most thorough pat down I have ever received and after testing my hands, told me I was free to go. After that, I had no issues getting on my plane and back to Boston where my ID was waiting for me at the Police Station near the airport. I was extremely lucky they were able to get back to me quickly because they are backlogged by over 1,000+ items and have not been able to answer all their calls due to the government shut down. However, despite my luck, I learned that you should always travel with more than just your state ID – a DMV issued ID card, Passport, and others are good options because you never know what you’ll lose when traveling.