Airport security

Alarming & heartwarming TSA Tweets

We’re still missing the corny communications TSA’s Blogger Bob Burns once shared with the public, but Lisa Farbstein and the team on duty now are doing a great job of keeping the public informed with light but serious messages about what can and cannot go through airport security checkpoints.

The tweets about the guns and other weapons people try to take through airport security checkpoints always alarm us, but this Tweet and the story of a TSA officer finding and returning a lost diamond is very heartwarming.

REAL ID deadline delayed. Again

If one of the many things worrying you during this pandemic has been how to get to a Department of Motor Vehicles office so you can get a driver’s license or identification card that is REAL ID compliant, you can relax.

The Department of Homeland Security has decided to delay the deadline for this. Yet again.

The latest deadline for this was supposed to be October 1, 2021. But now the deadline has been pushed back 19 months to May 3, 2023.

“Protecting the health, safety, and security of our communities is our top priority,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. “As our country continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, extending the REAL ID full enforcement deadline will give states needed time to reopen their driver’s licensing operations and ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card.” 

What is the big deal about REAL ID?

After the terrorist hijackings on September 11, 2001, Congress passed the Real ID act with the idea of adding extra layers of security to the driver’s licenses and other identification documents travelers show when seeking to board an airplane.

Many states have had a hard time (or were opposed to) meeting the stricter requirements, so enacting the law has been delayed many times already.

Now, if nothing else causes the READ ID deadline to be pushed back yet again, beginning May 3, 2023, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification (such as a passport) at airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel.  

How do you know if you have a driver’s license that’s REAL ID compliant? In most states, there is a star in the upper, right hand corner. To see what the procedure is in your state, check the DHS REAL ID page.

Don’t take your gun to the airport

It’s been a while since we took a look at the count of guns and other dangerous items travelers try to take through airport security checkpoints.

For the record, firearms, grenades and a long list of other dangerous – or dangerous-looking items – aren’t permitted airside in airports.

Yet each week passengers do show up at airport checkpoints with guns, live ammunition and other prohibited items in carry-on bags.

During the peak Thanksgiving holiday period, between November 18 and December 1, TSA officers found 153 firearms in carry-on bags.

Of those 153 firearms discovered, 127 were loaded. And 47 of those firearms had a round chambered.

In addition to firearms, TSA officers also found this novelty item at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on November 25. Grenades and inert grenades, no matter how cute, are on the list of items to leave home.

These grenades also showed up recently at airport checkpoints.

In this picture:

An empty grenade discovered by TSA officers at Louisiana’s Monroe Regional Airport on December 1.

An empty grenade discovered during X-ray screening at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on November 24. 

A novelty belt buckle grenade discovered at Louisville International Airport on November 28.

According to TSA, the most common reason travelers give when firearms and other dangerous items are discovered in their carry-ons is “Oops, I forgot that was in there.”

What happens to people who get caught with these items at the airport?

Some get fines up to $13,333. Some get arrested. And TSA Pre-check members run the risk of losing their status.

How to cut the checkpoint line at Boston Logan AIrport

Want to skip to the front of the airport security checkpoint line?

We all do.

To get the courtesy, you can pay for TSA Pre-Check. You could pay for a CLEAR membership.

Or, if you’re flying out of Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), you could take a boat to the airport.

Boat service has been offered for quite a while. But in a new program, passengers who take water transportation to Boston Logan International Airport will now get complimentary priority access at the airport security line.

Under the plan, passengers who take the MBTA ferry or water taxi service to the Logan Airport Boat Dock (Fare: $15) will get a “Ticket to Skip” pass when they get off the boats and board the free Logan Airport shuttle to the terminals.

The orange ticket can then be presented to security checkpoint staff in exchange for preferred lane access.

In good weather, taking the water taxi from Boston waterfront is a great adventure and can be quite convenient.

The small boats leave from Long Wharf, which is right by the New England Aquarium, the North End, Faneuil Hall and other popular Boston landmarks you might be visiting on your way out of town anyway.

So the ride to the airport can be part of your vacation.

Find more information about getting to and from Boston Logan International Airport (Bos).

What’s the deal with REAL ID?

My story this week for USA TODAY tries to break down what you need to know about getting that REAL ID we’ve been hearing about.

The deadline is coming up on October 1, 2020, so now it is getting real.

Here’s the story:

Take a look at your driver’s license.

Go ahead, we’ll wait while you fish it out of your wallet.

If your driver’s license doesn’t have a star in the upper corner of the card and you foresee flying on a domestic commercial flight any time after Oct 1, 2020, then your license is not Real ID compliant.

You’ll need to take action, make some decisions, or wait for your state to get its act together.

What’s Real ID?

The Real ID Act is legislation passed in 2005 (in response to the 9/11 terrorists attacks) that set new and higher minimum security standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards that will be accepted at airports, other Federally regulated facilities and nuclear power plants.

Debates and pushback from some states over the impact of Real ID have created confusion and delayed the official rollout of the Act’s enforcement, but October 1, 2020 is now considered the firm date for enforcement at commercial airports.

“The main pushback on REAL ID is that it’s too big brother,” said Jeff Price, an aviation security expert with Leading Edge Strategies, “It’s a move to make everyone in the U.S. have identification, which tends to upset those who enjoy life off the grid or don’t like any more government intrusion into their lives more than what is necessary.”

But, Price notes, nearly every state has come into compliance, “And there hasn’t been the big brother/illegal shakedown issues that some people predicted,” he said.

How do you get a REAL ID compliant license and when can you get?

Here’s where things can get tricky.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been phasing in enforcement of the REAL ID Act in an effort to give states time to become compliant with the rules and to begin issuing enhanced driver’s licenses and ID cards in time for the October 1, 2020 deadline.

Most states are currently in compliance (see this map) with the REAL ID Act and are able to issue upgraded licenses and IDs.

Seven states (Oregon, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Maine), plus American Samoa, have been granted extensions with varying deadlines for meeting the rules. (Some have until August 1, 2019 while others have until October 1, 2019).

California’s status regarding REAL ID compliance is listed as “Under Review” with a much shorter deadline of May 24, 2019 for achieving compliance.

It is possible these extensions will be extended if the states show they’re making progress. But time is running short.

What this means:

If your current driver’s license or ID card is from a compliant state, TSA will accept it at airports until September 30, 2020. Starting October 1, 2020, though, licenses and IDs from these – and every state – will need to bear a star or special symbol that shows it has been upgraded to conform to the new minimum security standards.

If your current license is from one of the seven states that has been given an extension, or from California, then it is good until the date the extension expires. After that, if the state isn’t given another extension, is it possible TSA will require an additional or alternate form of ID (i.e. a passport) between the extension expiration date and September 30, 2020.

Come October 1, 2020, though, licenses from these extension states will also need to have the star or symbol that shows is has been upgraded to meet the new minimum security standards.

Getting ready for October 1, 2020

Signs about the REAL ID deadline are going up now in airports across the country.

October 1, 2020 seems far off, but it is ‘just’ a year a half away. And there’s sure to be continued confusion and delays in getting upgraded licenses and ID cards from state agencies.

For that reason, the Transportation Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, airports and travel agents are urging travelers to renew their driver’s licenses or state IDs early and to be sure to opt for the ‘enhanced’ or ‘compliant’ versions which, we should warn you, require additional paperwork and may cost more than the ‘for-driving-only’ or ‘unenhanced’ versions in some states.

Or, you can decide if you are comfortable flying domestically with your passport (if you have on; only about 40% of Americans do ) or with one of the other forms of approved identification on this list.

Got that?