Millions of Americans may not have new Real IDs before deadline: "The potential is catastrophic"

Real ID deadline worries airports, lawmakers
Real ID deadline worries airports, lawmakers 04:14

Last Updated Feb 21, 2020 8:37 AM EST

As many as 182 million Americans may not have the right driver's license or identity card to pass through airport security when new Real ID requirements go into effect October 1, the U.S. Travel Association warned. Several members of Congress recently sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking for contingency plans so people don't show up to the airport and get turned away.

The Real ID Act was passed in the wake of 9/11 after several of the hijackers improperly obtained state IDs. 

A compliant Real ID, which has a star symbol at the top of the card, will be required to board a plane, enter a federal building or a military base. Passports, military IDs or Global Entry cards also will qualify to get through airport security.

Only about three in 10 Americans have a Real ID. Many states have been slow to implement them, including Oregon and Oklahoma, which won't start issuing them until the summer.

Tori Barnes, from the U.S. Travel Association, said 57% of Americans don't even know about the October 1 deadline.

"The potential is catastrophic," she told CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave. "We're absolutely not Real ID ready at all. We know 99 million Americans don't have a Real ID … It's going to be Thanksgiving 2020 where Grandma goes to get on a plane and she can't go see her grandkids."

Barnes said it could cause chaos at airports.

"Eighty-thousand people on the first day could be turned away. About half a million in the first week," she said. "And $300 million is what that could cost in economic loss."

The Real ID licenses require extra documentation, causing some to make multiple trips to the DMV. You need a valid ID, passport or birth certificate, proof of your Social Security number and date of birth and two items proving state residency.

Transportation Security Administration officers at airports nationwide are now warning flyers they won't be able to get to their flights come next October unless they update their IDs, and states are urging people to do it now.

"We will be as ready as we can," said Richard Holcomb, who runs the Virginia DMV. "We are doing everything we can. … We are a little concerned about 1.8 million Virginians coming into our offices between now and October 1."

Holcomb has deployed what he calls his secret weapon: four converted buses, rolling through Virginia up to four days a week, that are fully functioning mobile DMVs.

Jane Stanley got into one without even waiting and said it was "way easier" than going to the DMV.