In a year, everyone will need REAL ID to fly, new rule could ground many passengers

An estimated two-thirds of Americans don't know they'll need REAL ID to fly.

A year to the day -- Oct. 1, 2020 -- before every airline passenger will need a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or other acceptable form of identification to fly within the U.S., the Transportation Security Administration worked Tuesday to raise awareness and keep them from getting grounded.

At a news conference, as well as by using social media and advertising, TSA again put out the word that passengers who do not present an acceptable form of identification will not be permitted through security checkpoints.

"We need an all-hands on deck effort or we're going to have a meltdown at our airports on October 1st," Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said.

REAL ID was enacted in 2005 as a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission, according to TSA Acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell.

REAL ID-issued documents go through a secure identity verification process "specifically designed to prevent criminals and terrorists from using fraudulent documents," Cogswell said.

Airports, TSA officials and state officials are working to inform passengers about the upcoming change with a public awareness campaign that includes signs in airports and reminding passengers in person at security checkpoints.

However, the U.S. Travel Association estimates nearly two-thirds of Americans do not even know they need a REAL ID compliant identification, leaving many officials to say the lack of public knowledge could have a disastrous impact.

"What worries me is those people who fly infrequently who will show up at an airport thinking they’re going to go visit their grandkids and realizing their licenses doesn’t work without that star in the corner,” Dow said.

How can you tell if your license/ID is REAL ID compliant?

REAL ID compliant cards are marked with a star located in the upper portion of the card.

TSA says if you’re not sure, contact your state driver’s licensing agency on how to obtain a REAL ID compliant identification card.

How can you obtain your REAL ID?

To get a license with a REAL ID star, individuals will need to appear at their local Department of Motor Vehicles in person and bring specific documents to prove U.S. citizenship and residency.

Some airports, including Washington Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport are setting up satellite enrollment facilities to make sure travelers have access to necessary identification. But if passengers do not have the proper documents, “they will not be able to fly,” Cogswell said.

As of Oct. 1st, 47 of 50 states were issuing REAL ID compliant licenses.

Oregon, Oklahoma, New Jersey -- along with the U.S. territories Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa -- are not issuing REAL IDs yet, but according to Anne Ferro, CEO of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, all states are on track to become compliant ahead of the October 2020 deadline.

If you do not a REAL ID compliant credential, what else can you use to board a flight?

TSA will accept identification documents such as passports, military ID cards and Global Entry cards and provides a full list of acceptable identification documents on their website.

Passengers being unable to fly could have a huge economic impact. It's estimated that if REAL ID were implemented today, it could result in up to $40.3 million in lost travel spending in the first day.

Officials encouraged the public to check their identification and make plans in advance. Without that, “we will have chaos at our airports,” Kevin Burke, the CEO of the Airports Council International North America, said.