Most Americans Are Unprepared for REAL ID Deadline, U.S. Travel Says

by Daine Taylor
Most Americans Are Unprepared for REAL ID Deadline, U.S. Travel Says

Millions of Americans are unprepared for the launch of the REAL ID program, which could prevent them from flying, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Photo: Shutterstock


A study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association revealed that nearly three out of four Americans are unprepared for the upcoming REAL ID deadline of Oct. 1, 2020.

The program, implemented by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is the last phase of enforcement of the REAL ID Act, the law originally passed in 2005 that will require travelers to present a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or other approved form of identification in order to board a flight.

As it stands, according to the study, millions of people could be prevented from boarding a plane because they do not have the required identification. According to the survey conducted for U.S. Travel by Longwoods International, a market research consultancy, 72% of Americans either do not have a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or are unsure if they do.

"Our survey gave us the answer we didn't want to hear, that there is alarming lack of awareness and preparedness a short year out from REAL ID going into full effect," said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. "This is significant not only because it will inconvenience travelers and create confusion at U.S. airports — it could do significant damage to our nation's economy.”

The study revealed a significant lack of awareness of the REAL ID program, with more than half of Americans (57%) saying they did not know about the upcoming deadline. Many Americans also lack the alternatives to REAL ID-compliant, state-issued driver's licenses — such as a U.S. passport. In fact, 39% of Americans say they do not have any form of identification that will be accepted starting Oct. 1, 2020. This equates to an estimated 99 million Americans that may not currently hold the proper identification to board an airplane starting next year.

"That's why the U.S. Travel Association has launched a broad education effort alongside the full spectrum of public- and private-sector travel stakeholders: airports, federal government agencies, tourism offices, and the huge community of large and small businesses that depend on American travelers — we need all hands on deck to avert a big problem next October," said Dow.

Based on this data, U.S. Travel economists estimated the potential economic impact of REAL ID implementation: If REAL ID standards were to be fully enforced immediately, at least 78,500 air travelers could be turned away at TSA checkpoints on the first day, costing the U.S. economy $40.3 million in lost travel-related spending. If that trend was sustained for a full week, the figures could grow to more than half a million (549,500) air travelers prevented from boarding planes and $282 million in lost travel spending.

Individual states are initiating their own awareness campaigns to help get citizens ready for the change, but according to Dow, a concerted effort is needed to help make people aware and ready for the implementation of the REAL ID standards.

The U.S. Travel Association is spearheading an initiative by private-sector travel stakeholders to better prepare the country for the Oct. 1, 2020, REAL ID deadline. To that end, the association has developed a toolkit filled with resources for its membership and other allies to help educate Americans on what a REAL ID is and how to prepare for it. The toolkit features facts, figures, and even talking points to get people fully informed. The organization is also coordinating engagement with policymakers and government agencies to proactively address the lack of pre-deadline awareness.

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