Airports warn of chaos with looming Real ID license deadline

WASHINGTON — The nation’s airports are warning of chaos for passengers if the White House doesn’t postpone the looming Real ID deadline.

The law requires airline passengers to present a Real ID-compliant driver's license or ID card at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in airports as of Oct. 1. Those licenses require more proof of identification than regular licenses, and are generally marked with star on the top.

But while states have already issued 95 million Real IDs, that represents just 34 percent of the total, leaving two-thirds of the country with about seven months to get a REAL ID if they hope to use a license to board a plane.

Watch "NBC Nightly News" with Lester Holt tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. CT.

Without a REAL ID, airline passengers will be required to present a passport, military ID or Global Entry card to pass through security, even for domestic flights.

The Airports Council International-North America, which represents the nation’s airports, warned that thousands of passengers could be denied boarding and left stranded.

ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke told NBC News that “this is a crisis waiting to happen.”

“If the government doesn't make a definitive statement now that they're going to extend this, then we're going to have a real crisis on our hands come Oct. 1," he said.

6 PHOTOS
6 worst airports in the US
See Gallery
6 worst airports in the US

#6: Los Angeles International Airport

On a 1,000-point scale, travelers scored LAX a 702.

The airport is know for its long waits to get through security, immigration, and customs, according to the LA Times. Some travelers have also complained of poor signage, limited seating, unclean restrooms, and crowded terminals.

There are renovations planned for the airport, including a $1.6-billion midfield terminal that will add 12 gates for aircrafts. In February 2016, a revamped Terminal 2 also opened, which now features a mix of 20 new local and chain restaurants, more open space, and luxury retail.

Photo credit: Reuters

#5: Boston Logan Airport

On a 1,000-point scale, travelers scored Boston Logan Airport a 689.

The airport deals with extreme congestion: there were more than 5.5 million arrivals and departures in 2015, the Boston Globe reported. In the past, TSA lines have also stretched up to three hours. And the Globe notes that it's still not uncommon to have over five flights land within the same hour.

In 2016, the Massachusetts Transportation Authority approved a $45 million redevelopment plan, which includes expanding some terminals, for the airport.

Photo credit: Reuters

#4: Chicago O'Hare Airport

On a 1,000-point scale, travelers scored O'Hare a 689.

Due largely to weather, O'Hare can be a nightmare for flight delays — a major reason for its low score in the study. Thunderstorms and snow storms were relatively mild for O’Hare in 2016, which reduced flight delays compared to previous years, according to the researchers.

Photo credit: Reuters
#3: Philadelphia International Airport

On a 1,000-point scale, travelers scored Philadelphia International Airport a 688.

Philly's international airport's infrastructure continues to age, while the number of passengers that use it continues to grow. During 2016's spring break, nearly 6,800 passengers missed flights because of TSA checkpoint delays at Philadelphia International Airport, according to the local NBC station. The airport hired about 200 new workers each week last summer to try to make up for the gap.

Photo credit: Reuters

#2: Newark Liberty International Airport

On a 1,000-point scale, travelers scored Newark Airport a 669.

In 2016, the airport handled over 430,000 arrivals and departures, though many of them did not come or leave on-time. According to a report by the Department of Transportation, only 74% of flights avoided delays in 2016.

That year, United Airlines spent $120 million to redesign Newark's Terminal C, but the airport still needs many improvements.

Photo credit: Reuters

#1: New York LaGuardia Airport

On a 1,000-point scale, travelers scored Newark Airport a 649.

LaGuardia may be ugly, horribly congested, and not so efficient. (In 2016, 29% of LaGuardia flights had delays.)

But it's about to get a huge upgrade. In March 2016, the Port Authority of New York approved a $4 billion redevelopment plan for the aging airport. The first part of the new airport is expected to open in 2019, with the rest scheduled to debut 18 months after that.

Photo credit: Getty

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Congress passed the Real ID law after 9/11 to create a single, robust national standard for all states and territories.

Across the country, motor vehicle offices have been flooded with people trying to upgrade to a Real ID. Everyone is required to present four pieces of identification, including a passport or a birth certificate, a Social Security card or a tax return and two documents that provide proof of residency — a mortgage or a rental receipt and a utility bill.

To handle the rush, state DMV offices have staffed up and are allowing people to make appointments to present their documents for review.

But many states say they’re overwhelmed and can’t keep up.

Sue Fulton, chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, said that “demand outstrips the number of available Real ID appointments.”

Oklahoma state officials say only a handful of DMV offices will begin issuing that state’s Real IDs on April 30. The rest of the state will follow over the summer.

Oregon authorities said it will take until July before they’re able to issue the first new IDs.

Tom Fuller from the Oregon Department of Transportation said, "If we worked 24/7, we'd have to do seven a minute to get the number of licenses out by October. But there's no way that we could do seven a minute."

Oregon and Washington state are now urging citizens to get a passport card or book, saying that the process will be far quicker.

Kaiya Arroyo, standing in line at a Manhattan DMV office Tuesday, said, “It's packed in there. The line is out the door. People are very upset, frustrated.”

Eric Silver added, “It's pretty chaotic. There's just — people are everywhere. It's impossible to know when you're going to go up.”

When asked for a response to the Airports Council demanding a delay, the White House declined to comment. So far, The Department of Homeland Security has given no indication that it’s open to a delay, although it is considering options to speed up the verification process.

With the clock ticking to the Real ID deadline, travel pros are urging airline passengers to upgrade their licenses as soon as possible, or plan on using a passport, military ID or Global Entry card starting Oct. 1.

Read Full Story