Flying Without ID

In addition to technology, politics and privacy are two areas that interest me as well, and although this blog does not encompass those areas, I recently had an opportunity to fly without showing ID of any kind and wanted to share the experience. The process was quite painless, although from what I hear it varies from airport to airport.

On my first flight, the lady at the United desk was quite helpful and didn’t ask any questions about why I did not have ID. She printed me new tickets with bold “SSSS” printed several times on the ticket and told me that I would need to go through extra security. The TSA workers were also quite friendly and did not pose a problem. They bumped me to the front of the line to go through the metal dector machine, and then took me to a side area for a hand search of my carry-on bag. The first thing they did was use a hand metal detector and wand me again, and then did a quick pat down on my arms and legs. A frisk seems quite unecessary to me, and the only saving grace was the fact that the guy didn’t seem to want to do it any more than I did. The agent was very nice and told me exactly what he was going to do beforehand. After the frisk, the TSA agent swabbed all items in my carry-on and ran the swap through a explosive detection machine. Every item was swabbed individually, making this the most time consiming part of the search. The last item that the TSA agent swabbed was my TI-89 calculator, which, unfortunately, set off the explosive detection machine. A simple rerun through the x-ray machine satisified the supervising agent and they sent me on my way. Overall, the first flight security was OK, and took about 10 minutes total. My returning flight, however, proved to be a little more difficult.

Since the flight out was rather smooth through security, I didn’t expect much of a problem on my return flight. Flying Delta this time, the agent at the desk did not want to let me check my bags. She kept insisting that it was federal law for me to show ID and that she can’t let me check bags without it. After arguing with her for about 10 minutes, I demanded to see the supervisor. She left for a minute and, when she came back, printed my tickets and took my checked bags. When handing me my tickets (with SSSS boldly printed), she claimed the only reason they were letting me fly was because this was my returning flight. If that was true, getting on a plane would be as easy as claiming you were returning home. Other than that, getting through security was easy. Again, they bumped me to the front of an, admittedly short, line, and did similar procedures as my first flight. The TSA agent was very nice, did a quick frisk, and a quick look through my bag. He did not swab everything in my bag this time, doing only the zippers on the bag, my cell phone, my shoes, and my laptop.

All in all, I did not run into any major problems going through security, with only a small snafu with a Delta representative. My main issue with the entire process is why its necessery for such a search simply because the person does not have ID. Whether I have ID or not does not change what I am trying to carry onto the plane. I completely fail to understand what safety having ID brings to air travel. With the completion of this test, I think my next step is to fly with no identifying items whatsoever. By this I mainly mean buying my ticket with cash, since I did buy the ticket with a credit card, thus giving the airline a traceable address. My goal of true anonymous travel may have to wait a while, as I do not have any air travel plans in the works at this point.

1 comment

  1. You won’t need to pay cash to have an untraceable credit card. Go to the local Wal-Mart, and buy one of those new Visa gift cards that can be loaded with cash. They are usable everywhere that a credit card works. Buy your ticket with that, use an alias as your name, print your ticket and boarding pass at home, and check through security without any ID using the SSSS method.

    It’s scary to think that this is possible. Anyone on the “no-fly” list can easily use this method to fly anywhere in the USA.

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