David J. Danto


Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion




eMail: ddanto@IMCCA.org      Follow Industry News: @NJDavidD


I Am Who I Am – December 2022


  No, I’m not channeling Popeye. I’m doing everything I can to get on an airplane in the USA.  I used to be able to buy a ticket that had inherent value in the paper, then I needed to add my name to the reservation, then I needed to add my exact name, and now I’ll need to have some form of Real ID…well, maybe not yet…or ever.  Real ID is coming (unless it gets continuously temporarily delayed into oblivion.) 

Last week we learned that the Department of Homeland Security’s Real ID program was again being postponed – this time until May 2025.  It’s not their first postponement.  Heck, I can’t even remember what number postponement it is.   

Airlines used to issue paper tickets – essentially vouchers that let people on a plane no matter who they were.  That was changed pre-9/11 with people needing to provide a name to get an airplane ticket.  If you remember, we used to buy tickets with a last name and first initial so that we could switch the ticket to another family member.  After 9/11, providing a full name that matches one’s ID became the requirement.

Obviously this improved the airlines’ and government’s ability to track who was flying, but separately the airlines loved the idea of making their tickets far less transferrable, so they went along with no argument.

The TSA (whose failures I’ve written about many times) required a current, government issued ID to enter an airport from that point forward.  (No one has ever effectively explained to me why an expired passport or expired driver’s license isn’t valid ID for travel.  Its simple logic that when one’s ID expires we don’t become someone else, so having a non-expired ID clearly was about something other than identifying an individual.)  Sometime after that the Real ID program was announced.

Because drivers’ licenses are issued by states, and there was so much variability with how they were issued, the program attempted to make sure that people were who they claimed to be when they obtained their license.  If the correct collection of proof was presented, the individual would get a kindergarten-esque gold star on their ID.

Let’s take step back and explain why taking a few minutes to think that one through just a bit should have prevented (and in my opinion has already doomed) the program.

If you’ve ever been in a local motor vehicle office (an organization even more inept then the TSA) you’d immediately know why this is a disaster.  The whole point of the program was to make sure people are who they claim to be as they travel.  Motor vehicle offices are simply not equipped to make this educated judgement.  All they can do is make sure documents on an approved checklist are presented.

When COVID was at its peak, most motor vehicle offices were closed or had significantly limited hours.  Appointments to get Real ID were all booked up for months in advance.  If one was lucky enough to get such an appointment, the document requirements were very strict.  Things like an original Social Security card were required.  If you were one of the anal individuals (like me) that kept this card in your wallet for over five decades, it was STILL disqualified if the card was laminated.  If (like my wife) you had ID with your maiden name and your married name – and had proof of the name change in a marriage certificate – god help you in trying to find someone with the ability to make such a judgement at one of these offices.  Typically it would just be a rejection and the issuance of a new license without the coveted gold star.

My wife was going crazy trying to find the right collection of documents with the various versions of her name and her family’s historical documents (many of which were lost or destroyed in WWII.)  It was a nearly unsolvable problem.  She was even exploring how to execute a legal name change.  It was at that point we discovered that the US-Canada border ID card issued when one gets Global Entry is also acceptable Real ID.  All she had to do was apply on line for Global Entry with the same documentation that the motor vehicle office rejected.  She was approved, attended her in-person appointment, and her card is on the way.

The difference there is that the Customs and Border Patrol team that manages Global Entry has the ability (and brainpower) to perform a background check on who she is, so looking for documents on a checklist (and ensuring they haven’t been laminated) like a mindless automaton is not necessary.

The lesson here is if you want to doom a national process, make it something the motor vehicle offices need to handle.  They’re really good at stapling forms together, but that’s just about it.      



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This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.

All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.

Copyright 2022 David Danto


As always, feel free to write and comment, question or disagree.  Hearing from the traveling community is always a highlight for me.  Thanks!