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One Year Out, REAL ID Act Already Presenting Real Problems for Sports

16 Oct, 2019

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Sometimes, it’s called INH2MS (It’ll Never Happen to Me Syndrome). Sometimes, it’s just lack of basic awareness. But even now, less than a year away from the October 1, 2020, implementation of REAL ID, a study commissioned by U.S. Travel shows that nearly three-quarters of Americans don’t have a compliant driver's license or are unsure if they do.

And that means millions of sports families could be stuck at the airport, rather than boarding planes for tournaments in the coming year, since they don’t have the required identification.

So the question becomes this: What can planners, who have out-of-town events at that time, do to raise awareness and keep families from being stranded at the gate?

As the U.S. Department of Homeland Security prepares to implement the last phase of enforcement of the REAL ID Act—the law originally passed in 2005 which will require travelers to present a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or other approved form of identification to board a flight, it is incumbent upon all those who travel to make sure they’re ready.

And, apparently, they’re not ready – and the numbers showing that are worrisome, to say the least. In addition to the nearly 75 percent who said they did not have a REAL ID-compliant license (or didn’t know if they did), the study showed that more than half of Americans (57%) said they did not know about the upcoming deadline. Another 39 percent said they do not have any form of identification that will be accepted starting October 1, 2020.

And that, says US Travel, adds up to about 99 million American who may be unable to get through TSA much less board an aircraft.

That sucking sound you just heard was about a million event owners gasping in horror, thinking of what might happen to tournaments in the fall and beyond if families are stranded and unable to participate.

Fortunately, REAL ID is not in effect – yet. There’s still time – and that means event owners can help, if they’re proactive. A number of resources are available.

In fact, when publicizing events for this fall and beyond, it behooves event owners to add special verbiage, stating, “(X Tournament) is looking forward to your participation, both this year and in years to come. Because we are, we want to make sure everyone is compliant with the REAL ID Act, which goes into effect in October of 2020, and will require special documentation to travel aboard any airline. Click here for more information.”

The “click here” could then help parents and athletes navigate over to resources that can help them become REAL ID compliant in plenty of time for next year’s deadline. For example:

  • TSA has set up this special page with Frequently Asked Questions about REAL ID, how it works and where it is necessary. Event owners who want to raise awareness should alert event owners to this page, which has clear and succinct information.
  • Individuals who need to apply for a passportshould be advised to use this link, rather than those in pages sponsored by travel agencies and other entities, which could charge an additional fee for services.
  • Every state’s Motor Vehicle Administration or Department of Motor Vehicles website has information regarding the documentation necessary to have driver’s licenses upgraded to REAL ID. However, it’s worth noting that such websites may be confusing – and that it’s worth talking to a customer service agent prior to heading over to renew or upgrade a driver’s license, since some may require rather extensive documentation in order to get the REAL ID-compliant license.

Youth sports event owners should know that those under the age of 18 will not need to be REAL ID compliant in order to fly on or after October 1, 2020, when traveling with an adult companion within the United States. The companion will need REAL ID-compliant identification, as will any family member who will turn 18 during the travel.

Children who are under 16 years old and who are U.S. citizens may travel with their original U.S. birth certificate with the raised seal. Children who are 16 and older, and are U.S. citizens, are required to travel with photo ID. The photo ID can be a passport, or their original U.S. birth certificate with the raised seal plus a government-issued photo ID.

Those travelingwith an infant as a lap child will be asked for proof of age, such as a passport, birth certificate or an immunization record. (and infants between three and 14 days old must also have, in the form of a letter, their doctor's approval to travel.)

All the more reason for event owners and rights holders to encourage families to obtain full REAL ID-compliant documentation for their flights sooner, rather than later.

Want some more useful numbers? U.S. Travel economists estimated the potential economic impact of REAL ID implementation: if REAL ID standards were to be fully enforced immediately, at least 78,500 air travelers could be turned away at TSA checkpoints on the first day, costing the U.S. economy $40.3 million in lost travel-related spending. If that trend sustained for a full week, the figures could grow to more than half a million (549,500) air travelers prevented from boarding planes and $282 million in lost travel spending.

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