Ask Cranky: What to Do When Your Photo ID is Lost

I’ve decided to start a new feature here on the blog called “Ask Cranky.” I get questions from people all the time, and I always answer directly. But a friend made me realize that these answers could be interesting to many readers out there, so here we go. Feel free to send me questions any time, and if appropriate, I’ll respond in this column. First up, we have this one:

What happens if you are traveling and you happen to lose your license and didn’t happen to bring your passport? Is there some way you can still catch your return flight?



The short answer is this . . . you’re stuck in that airport forever. Good luck.

Seriously though, I’m assuming we’re talking about a domestic flight since you don’t have your Ask Crankypassport. In that case, it’s pretty easy to travel. Up until recently, it wasn’t required that you show photo ID. Sure, they made it sound that way, but it wasn’t actually necessary.

That all changed in June when the TSA decided to require people to show photo ID every time they travel. (Forget about the fact that these rules have more holes than a Baghdad runway, as pointed out by security-god Bruce Schneier.) Now if you don’t have your ID, it makes it harder to fly, but it’s still not that hard.

The TSA does realize that people can lose their IDs and they don’t want to start a colony of stranded travelers in every airport. So, if you tell them you lost your ID, they’ll grill you with a bunch of questions to make sure you are who you say you are and they’ll probably put you through secondary screening. (Hello, latex gloves!) Then you’ll be on your way. (Here’s a long list of questions on this subject as answered by the TSA.)

There are a couple things you can do to make your life easier here.

  • Check in at home or at a kiosk – Technically, an airline shouldn’t require that they see your ID, but if you check in at the ticket counter, they’ll usually ask to see it. Just avoid the ticket counter so you don’t have to deal with that.

  • Tell the truth – If you’ve lost your ID, just tell them and you’ll have much less trouble. If you start spouting off about how you don’t want to show ID because the TSA has no authority, they’re going to flag you. And do you really want to be walking bow-legged to get your flight? I think not.

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